It’s the latest of our series of blogs looking at how employers must step up their health and safety procedures to cope with the increased risks arising from coronavirus. In the last two blogs, we’ve looked at the legislative context for lone worker health and safety, and at how employers can safeguard people working in their own home. As ever when it comes to health and safety, the right risk assessment can form the basis of good policies and procedures that really protect lone workers.
This time around, we’re focusing on housing lone workers who are operating in clients’ homes. Many of these job functions may have been on hold or desk-based during the earlier phase of coronavirus shutdown. Now that more people are getting back to work outside their own homes, housing sector employers need to ensure that they’ve covered all the angles for their lone workers. And as at any time, risk mitigation strategies in clients’ homes will take a number of different forms.
Housing lone workers interacting with the public during the pandemic
Lone working in the housing and property sector covers a huge and diverse number of roles. More than in some other parts of the economy, this often means interacting with people rather than working in isolation. For social housing providers, these roles are many and varied. From maintenance engineers and caretakers to neighbourhood housing officers and support workers, they’re regularly working without direct supervision in clients’ homes. In other parts of the housing and property sector, too, there is regular interaction with the public. Estate agents were among the first professions named as being encouraged to go back to work in the mid-May relaxation of UK lockdown restrictions.
In more normal times, many of the main risks associated with the housing sector are around dealing with anti-social behaviour or challenging tenants. It’s lone workers’ personal safety and security which is most at risk in their everyday work practice. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, these housing lone workers need additional protection to safeguard their health. The UK government has published some guidance on working safely during the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the specific scenarios they have highlighted is working in other people’s homes.
How to mitigate coronavirus risks in clients’ homes
For home visits, there are particular areas which will require careful planning and risk mitigation on behalf of housing lone workers and their employers. Maintaining a 2-metre social distance while interacting with householders can be more easily achieved by giving ample notice of visits. Getting householders to keep doors open and not accepting offers of refreshments will limit shared contact points. Where possible, avoiding busy areas in the house and meeting in well-ventilated rooms or outdoors will also help reduce transmission. And paying attention to hand washing and cleaning both before and after visits is also essential.
As for personal protective equipment (PPE), this should continue to be used if it is a normal part of the job. For instance, hand protection and eye covering will continue to be needed for people undertaking home repairs. In contrast, wearing a face-covering to mitigate against coronavirus transmission is optional and is not required by law, including in the workplace. For housing lone workers operating in other people’s homes, it would be beneficial to ascertain whether the householder wishes to adopt face coverings. If workers choose to wear one, it is of course vital to use face coverings properly and wash hands before donning and removing them.
Safe Hub and how it helps
More than ever, it’s important to think about the teams surrounding housing lone workers. Many housing providers will already think about workforce management so that particular teams look after certain groups of individuals or properties. During the pandemic, such a dedicated team structure can limit the risks of cross-transmission. Where equipment needs to be shared, steps should be taken to avoid direct contact where possible, for instance through drop-off points and transfer zones.
Safe Hub’s overarching lone worker safety system facilitates working in teams while responding to the needs of individual housing lone workers. Different Safe Hub features give individual lone workers peace of mind, while simultaneously allowing team managers to control risks across the team. Of course, all our Safe Hub's safety features are available as usual on our apps and dedicated safety devices. We provide everything from emergency Red Alert and Yellow Alert voice memo, through to reactive Worker Down fall detection and proactive Safe Check welfare features. And Group Alert can be used to communicate messages with specific teams. Subject to data protection requirements, this could be used by an employer to notify teams if specific contacts have tested positive for coronavirus, supplementing the NHS Test and Trace service.
Looking after health and safety across the board
As we offer a tailored package of support, devices and apps to every housing provider and property company, ours is the lowest total cost lone worker safety solution. As the UK economy comes to terms with the new realities of living alongside coronavirus, it’s good to have some certainty. We remain here to provide lone worker safety in a whole range of scenarios and to supplement employers’ efforts to safeguard housing lone workers. We’ll leave it up to the lone workers themselves to wash their hands and keep their distance. #HousingLoneWorkers #RiskAssessment #CoronavirusRisks #LowestTotalCost #LoneWorkerSafety
Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today to find out how we can protect housing lone workers while they’re in clients’ homes.
Post by Henry Robinson
As an Account Manager at Lone Worker Solutions (LWS), Henry introduces new clients to Safe Hub, our award-winning system to protect and monitor lone workers. Safe Hub is a package of emergency buddy, proactive, reactive, broadcast and virtual barrier protection for lone workers. The system supports lone and remote workers on the widest possible array of BS8484:2016 Gold Certified devices, including Android, Apple and Windows smartphones, BlackBerrys, standard mobiles, PCs, intrinsically safe devices, specialist personal safety devices and satellite phones.