Lone worker risk assessment guide
An extensive guide to risk assessments for employers or managers of lone workers.
Lone working risk assessments
Lone workers face a range of hazards and risks on a daily basis, that can differ from those based in a fixed or office environment. This guide aims to explain what your legal responsibilities are when it comes to risk assessments, and how to effectively carry out a risk assessment for your lone workers.
What is a lone working risk assessment?
A lone working risk assessment is a process of identifying and assessing risks associated with a job role carried out by a lone worker. When carrying out a risk assessment for lone working staff, you must consider hazards related to the work being carried out, the people they come into contact with and the different environments they travel through and work in. The purpose of the assessment is to identify what needs to be done to control health and safety risks for your lone workers.
Are lone working risk assessments a legal requirement?
Lone working risk assessments are a basic legal requirement and should be carried out for all employees. If you employ five or more people, you are legally required to write down and keep a record of your risk assessment.
What should lone working risk assessments contain?
Your lone working risk assessment should contain the hazards identified, who might be harmed and how, what procedures are already in place to prevent harm and what further action you will take to further reduce risk.
It is also useful to include on your written report who carried out the risk assessment, the date it was carried out and the date of any next steps and when a review is due.
How do I create a lone worker risk assessment?
Risk assessments should be carried out by someone who is responsible for health and safety in your organisation and is experienced and knowledgeable enough to do so. Once you have identified all lone workers in your organisation, you can follow 5 steps to risk assessment as set out by the Health and Safety Executive.
HSE lone working risk assessment
The Health and Safety Executive is a UK government agency responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare, and for research into occupational risks in Great Britain.
The HSE offer a range of advice for businesses on how to meet their legal duty of care and keep their employees safe. As well as offering lone worker guidance, the HSE offer advice on carrying out risk assessments.
HSE 5 step risk assessment
The HSE provides a 5-step risk assessment guide to help businesses understand what is required as part of a risk assessment.
1. Identify the hazards
For fixed or regular work environments, including vehicles used for work, hazards can be identified through inspections and observations. However, many lone workers travel to a number of irregular sites and unfixed basis. Visiting each one may be unrealistic but there are a number of other ways to identify risk;
- Talk to your lone workers and ask them for feedback on any risks they have identified
- Look at past incidents and near misses and identify the causes
- Look at common hazards identified by bodies such as HSE and consider whether they could be present in your workplaces
2. Decide who might be harmed and how
Next you must consider which of your employees might be harmed by the identified hazards. Perhaps the hazard is associated with a particular work site which is only visited by one employee or perhaps the hazard applies to the work being carried out across a group of lone workers.
You should also take into consideration the experience and training levels of your lone workers. It could be the case that several of your employees would be better equipped at dealing with the hazard and therefore the risk will be lower. E.g. they may have training and experience on operating a piece of equipment.
As well as your lone workers, the business holds a legal responsibility to protect the well-being of anyone who may be affected by the businesses work activities. This includes members of the public and other workers operating nearby.
Therefore, you must consider whether anyone else could be harmed by the activities of your lone workers. For example, if they are working at height and drop an object, could someone be injured below?
3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Once hazards have been identified, you then need to decide how likely it is that harm will occur, and what the level of harm will be to your lone worker.
The actions you take to reduce or eliminate risk will need to take into consideration the following;
- The likelihood of the risk occurring
- The degree of harm that might result from the hazard
- The availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk
- The cost associated with available ways of eliminating the hazard and whether this is proportionate to the risk
Once you have decided whether you are going to take action, ask yourself whether the hazard can be eliminated entirely or whether you can control the risk so that harm is unlikely.
Some practical steps you could take include:
- Trying a less risky way of working e.g. using scaffolding instead of ladders for long periods of working at height
- Preventing access to the hazards or ceasing work on a hazardous site
- Reorganising work patterns to reduce exposure to the hazard e.g. limiting lone working to social hours
- Issuing protective equipment or lone worker devices
- Providing lone worker training and employee consultations
- Avoid sending lone workers out to customers who you have identified as a possible risk
If your risk assessment has identified a number of hazards, place them in order of importance and address the most serious risks first. For risks likely to cause accidents or ill health, you should establish whether short-term controls need to be put in place immediately while you take steps to control the risk long term.
Remember, the greater the risk the more robust and reliable the control measures will need to be.
4. Record your significant findings
If you have more than 5 employees, you are required by law to record your significant findings
including the hazards identified, how your lone workers might be harmed and what you have put in place to control the risk.
Your records should be simple, easy to understand and focus on the control systems you have put in place. Keeping a record will allow you to review past risk assessments and provides you with base evidence should an accident or incident occur.
Your written risk assessment should show that;
- A thorough check was carried out
- You considered who might be affected by the hazards
- You took all reasonable steps to control the hazards
- The remaining risk is low
- You involved your employees or health and safety representatives in the process
5. Review your risk assessment and update if necessary
Workplaces are constantly changing and new hazards are likely to arise as you expand, hire new employees or implement new equipment and ways of working. You may also find that the procedures you have put in place haven’t been effective, and more still needs to be done to control risk.
Therefore, it is important to regularly review the lone worker risk assessments and safety procedures you have in place.
As part of your risk assessment review you should consider;
- Whether there have been any significant changes in the workplace
- Whether your policies and procedures have been effective
- Whether your lone workers have identified any other issues
- Whether any accidents or incidents have occurred
- If you identify any issues, it is important to follow steps 1-4 again and keep your risk assessment up to date.
Lone working risk assessment checklists
For further guidance on developing your lone worker risks assessment, you can follow the lone working checklist below to ensure you are covering some of the basics.
- Is the task suitable for a person to handle alone?
- Has proper training been given to the lone worker?
- Does the task involved handling dangerous equipment or substances?
- Do these substances or equipment require supervision or a second person to operate?
- Is the task particularly stressful or upsetting? Is your lone worker mentally equipped to cope with the work?
- Is there a risk of violence or aggression?
- Does your employee have an existing medical condition which provides additional support?
- Are you assessing your employees separately? E.g. trainees, young, pregnant and disabled workers.
- Is there a clear communication procedure during an emergency? Remember to consider those whose first language is not English
- Do your lone workers understand emergency protocol? – do they know what to do if they fall ill, have an accident or if there is an emergency such as a fire?
- Are your lone workers monitored and properly supervised?
Lone working risk assessment examples and templates
To help you get started with your lone working risk assessment, you can download and use our risk assessment template.
For risk assessment examples based on specific lone working rob roles or industries, take a look at some of the examples below.
Risk assessment lone working NHS
Risk assessment for lone working in an office
Risk assessment for lone working in housing
Find out what the law has to say about risk assessments and working alone.