In our latest blog on the NHS, we look at the lines of responsibility for supporting lone workers within the organisation. Previously, NHS Protect had accountability for safety and security issues across the NHS. As that body is now focused on preventing fraud, the role of Local Safety Management Specialists (LSMSs) is ever more important. And of course, line managers remain vital in ensuring safety for their direct reports who are lone working. What can link all these levels of responsibility is a technological solution to lone worker protection such as Safe Hub, and its range of support features.
Background: overall responsibility for lone workers at the highest level
As a reminder, health and safety legislation imposes legal duties on employers. They must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. Lone workers are not singled out by this law. However, organisations must respond to the fact that working alone, remotely or out-of-sight of colleagues can increase risks. They should therefore have lone working policies and procedures in place which must be kept under constant review.
Under the NHS standard contract 2016, health bodies have general responsibilities to manage the safety and security of all those who work in the NHS. Overall responsibility for lone worker protection is that of the particular NHS health body’s security management director. This should ensure the full commitment of the board for all organisational strategies and initiatives to protect lone workers. And clearly, this could include deploying a solution such as Safe Hub.
Local Security Management Specialists: framing lone working policies, writing procedures
The next level down will be Local Security Management Specialists (LSMSs). They are responsible for ensuring NHS health bodies have robust and up-to-date lone worker policies and procedures in place. LSMSs should ensure that these are developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders. Internally, this will include views of staff and their union or professional body, as well as health and safety advisors, risk managers and human resources departments.
Equally importantly, policies must reflect the views of patients and service users on how NHS bodies undertake visits in the community and to their homes.
LSMSs must ensure that policies are disseminated to all relevant staff in new employee induction programmes. This will include line managers as well as the lone workers whom policies are designed to safeguard. It is also important to communicate clearly that lone working can occur within different healthcare settings, not just community-based work. LSMSs should be advocates for best practice, such as the use of positive reporting regarding appointments and movements for lone workers. These ways of working are supported by our Yellow Alert and Safe Check features.
Equally, it’s vital that LSMSs set clear procedures for what happens if things do go wrong. These must include a full investigation and, where proportionate and necessary, reporting to the police and supporting their investigation. Just as importantly, there must be a post-incident review to identify lessons learnt and implement appropriate remedial measures.
Line managers: implementing policies, with Safe Hub protecting staff
On a day-to-day basis, it’s line managers who have responsibility to ensure that all relevant lone working policies and procedures are implemented in their teams. In doing so, they must ensure that staff feel supported and are appropriately protected before entering a lone working situation. This includes ensuring that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment has been conducted and is regularly reviewed. Line managers will be crucial in introducing control measures to mitigate or remove risks, such as integrating Safe Hub into staff routines.
When an incident occurs, line managers should ensure that the employee involved completes an incident reporting form in line with local policy. After an incident, the risk assessment should be revisited as soon as possible, and the adequacy of existing control measures reviewed. This should take place before carrying out a formalised investigation, reviewing lessons learned and taking appropriate action to try to prevent recurrence.
Staff members: taking reasonable care and using Safe Hub correctly
There is also an onus on lone workers to play their part under health and safety legislation. Staff members have a responsibility to take reasonable care of themselves, and to cooperate with their employer. Such cooperation would include using Safe Hub – for instance, ensuring that devices are charged and ready to use at all times.
Under no circumstances must an employee put themselves at undue risk. If a situation arises that they are unfamiliar with, or in which they feel unsafe, they should withdraw to a designated place of safety and seek further advice. If appropriate, they should make full use of conflict resolution and personal safety training. And if a problem does arise, the employee should complete an incident form as soon as possible, however minor the incident may be.
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Post by George Stavrinidis
George is Chief Executive Officer of Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He believes passionately that everyone should be protected and supported at work. George supports LWS clients to make sure they enjoy the most effective relationship with the team and maximise the effectiveness of their deployment of Safe Hub.
About Lone Worker Solutions
At Lone Worker Solutions, it’s our business to protect employees, managers and shareholders from the risks associated with working alone. This includes the potential hazards faced by staff who work by themselves, remotely, or out-of-sight or earshot of colleagues. When it comes to safety we don't believe in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; instead, we tailor our solution to each organisation's exact needs.
About Safe Hub
Safe Hub is an award-winning BS8484:2016 Gold Certified package of emergency, buddy, proactive, reactive, broadcast and virtual barrier protection for lone workers. Safe Hub supports lone and remote workers on the widest possible array of devices including Android, Apple and Windows smartphones, BlackBerrys, standard mobiles, PCs, intrinsically safe devices, specialist personal safety devices and satellite phones.
This post has been updated to reflect recent changes and improvements to the naming of Lone Worker Solutions' platform and the safety features that it provides. Prior to 2018, Safe Hub was called LoneWorker Manager, Safe Check was called Heartbeat, and Group Alert was called Broadcast Messaging. These updates reflect advancements in the platform and help to improve end-user comprehension.