Defining lone working roles: Who is classed as a lone worker?
The UK Health & Safety Executive defines a lone worker as 'those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision’.
In fixed establishments:
A person working alone in a small workshop, petrol station, kiosk or shop,
People who work from home other than in low-risk, office-type work,
People working alone for long periods, eg in factories, warehouses, leisure centres or fairgrounds,
People working on their own outside normal hours, eg cleaners and security, maintenance or repair staff.
As mobile workers working away from their fixed base:
Workers involved in construction, maintenance and repair, plant installation and cleaning work,
Agricultural and forestry workers,
Service workers, including postal staff, social and medical workers, engineers, estate agents, and sales or service representatives visiting domestic and commercial premises.
Source: UK Health & Safety Executive
The Sentencing Council increased penalties for corporate manslaughter and health & safety offences from 2016
Companies with a turnover of more than £50m can now be fined up to £20m in cases of corporate manslaughter.
Individual company directors can face custodial sentences for breaches.
£8m in fines for construction firms in the first 6 months of guidelines.
Primary lone working legislation: UK
UK laws require employers to protect all their employees, as well as contractors and self-employed workers. Employers must assess the health and safety risks associated with any activity before the work begins. There are no specific laws governing lone working; in short, lone working is not against the law. However, the considerations for planning a safe and healthy working environment for lone and remote workers are often quite different than for other staff.
What laws are relevant for lone working?
The primary legislation covering occupational health and safety in the UK is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, together with later amendments, as well as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. There is also legislation covering reporting of accidents and incidents at work, under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).
Defining lone workers
The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers as “those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision”. It’s essential to have a robust policy which codifies your organisation’s policies and procedures around lone working, in line with the regulations. What’s more, it’s advisable to nurture a culture which places health and safety at the heart of the business.
Health & Safety Resources
Corporate liability: Sentencing Council penalties
Unlimited fines for companies, prison sentences for directors
In 2015 the Sentencing Council published new guidelines aimed at delivering proportional and fair penalties for breeches of legislation. The new rules (Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline) came into force on 1 February 2016. The guidelines increased the maximum fines and custodial sentences that can be handed down. In the first six months, construction firms alone paid nearly £8 million in penalties.
The new guidelines imposed a sliding scale of fines, designed to ensure that all companies, large or small, receive a penalty that impacts their bottom line to the same degree. Companies with a turnover of more than £50 million can now be fined up to £20 million in cases of corporate manslaughter. In the most severe cases, the legislation now also allows for directors to face custodial sentences of up to life imprisonment.
Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said: “These guidelines will introduce a consistent approach to sentencing, ensuring fair and proportionate sentences for those who cause death or injury to their employees and the public, or put them at risk. These offences can have very serious consequences and it is important that sentences reflect these.”
It is the role of the directors to take the lead in developing their company’s approach to health and safety. This means setting the agenda around staff and customer protection, and preparing policies, procedures and company rules to define risk around job roles.
Directors are expected to put in place practical barriers to risk without stymieing productivity. The aim is to minimise exposure to the risk of accident or injury and to ensure staff take action immediately if something does go wrong. The company should develop a positive attitude to disclosure, encouraging employees to actively raise safety issues and not work in any conditions or under circumstances that present an unacceptable risk.
Some duties are prohibited from being undertaken by lone workers, and employers must make sure they know which rules apply to their industry sector. Prohibited tasks include (but are not limited to) those that involve diving operations, transporting explosives, and fumigation work. Employers must consult their workers on matters relating to health and safety, and this process must take place before the policy is established.
Directors must ensure risk assessments have been conducted thoroughly across the business. The risk assessment for individual job functions will help with planning an appropriate level of supervision. Organisations with five or more employees must record the ‘significant findings’ of all risk assessments.
Workplace injuries 2016 UK statistics
609,000 self-reported injuries occurred at work, according to the Labour Force Survey.
70,116 employer-reported non-fatal injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR.
1.3 million working people suffered from a work-related illness.
31.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury.