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Published 19 March 2020
Last week the HSE issued its updated guidance on “Protecting lone workers: How to manage the risks of working alone.” (INDG73 (rev4).
This guidance is well timed given the current health crisis. With the UK now in the ‘delay’ phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus and the latest government advice on self-isolation, an increase in the number of people working from home is inevitable.
It is recognised that lone workers face the same hazards at work as any other worker however, when problems arise, there may be greater risks of hazards causing harm for those who are working without close or direct supervision.
The guidance highlights that the ways in which people work are changing given the greater use of technology which enables more flexible or remote working; furthermore, the types of workers are changing e.g. those working to an older age or the prevalence of short term contractors, freelancers in the so-called ‘gig economy.’ This requires employers to adapt the way they approach health and safety to ensure that they provide adequate training, supervision, monitoring and support for their lone workers.
The guidance provides advice on managing risks and factors to be considered when risk assessing of lone workers and others who may be affected by their work, the lone worker’s environment and work equipment used, and whether/how work activities can trigger incidents. Other important considerations mentioned include ensuring effective control measures for lone workers whose first language is not English, lone workers with pre-existing medical conditions and those who are working in their own homes.
There is also new guidance on the following:
Given the HSE’s latest annual statistics report indicating signs of an increase in the rate of work- related stress, depression and anxiety in recent years, there is a focus on stress management by maintaining contact with lone workers and having support in place from managers and colleagues.
It is highly likely in the current crisis that businesses, in order to protect their people and preserve business continuity, will have to move to employees working from home. It is imperative that employers review their policies and risk assessments and communicate these timeously to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees.
For more information or advice, please contact one of our experts in our regulatory team.
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