What is a hazard?
What is a hazard?
Hazards are part of the reality of working life, especially for lone workers. Facing hazards can result in injury, illness and even death.
Employers who fail to address hazards at work can be at the receiving end of expensive claims and even criminal penalties.
Hazards are sometimes, but not always, in plain sight. Employers need to take a methodical approach to identifying hazards and to promote a culture of safety in the workplace. Health and safety training is a vital part of the mix, as is providing the right equipment and working environment for employees.
The challenges of managing hazards in a head office or at a main plant are one thing. But how do you manage hazards for staff working off site? And what are the hazards of lone working? If you are responsible for staff working in remote locations or working alone, your understanding of the hazards they face is a key responsibility.
What is hazard and risk?
For clear communication about safety at work, it is important for employers and staff to understand the difference between hazards and risks. Hazards fall into six types of workplace hazard are anything that can cause harm such as:
However, hazards are not restricted to materials and the physical environment. They can also be in the form of bullying or stress, which can damage workers’ emotional and mental states.
Risk is the likelihood of harm in the workplace and should be assessed as a combination of the probability of harm occurring, and the severity of the damage caused. Harm may be unlikely to occur, but if the result could be serious injury or worse, the risk needs to be considered high. For example, it may be unlikely that a construction worker falls from scaffolding, but if they did the result would be serious injury or worse. Working at heights is a high-risk work situation.
How do you identify hazards?
What constitutes a hazard in the workplace? Hazards take many different forms. Everyday issues such as spillages, trailing wires and uneven floors are prime culprits. Using the wrong equipment to carry out a task is often cited as a hazard, as is the use of incorrect health and safety equipment. Emotional maltreatment and bullying by management and fellow workers also arises at work, as do unrealistic workloads. The hazards affecting mental wellbeing are as important as those which can cause physical damage.
It is vital for employers to keep on top of hazards in the working environment. Identifying workplace hazards is an important step in safety management, as is managing the approach of employees to safe working. Employers can be held responsible for the action of their employees through vicarious liability.
What are the hazards for lone workers?
Lone workers face specific challenges which do not arise for staff working close to colleagues. In the event of slips and trips or other accidents, lone workers need to be able to look after themselves or get assistance with the minimum of fuss. For serious emergencies such as fire outbreaks, falling from heights, or personal attacks, lone workers need to be able to call for urgent help immediately.
By identifying the hazardous situations lone workers can find themselves in, employers can put in place essential safety procedures. Different lone worker roles have different hazards to deal with, but for each case, responsible employers need a full understanding of the hazards in order to implement procedures for avoiding injury and other damage to their staff.
Lone worker hazards are not only physical. There is extensive evidence of the psychological damage that can be experienced by staff working by themselves, especially if they are in a difficult environment. This element of wellbeing needs to be as thoroughly embraced by employers as physical safety.
For a guide to the hazards faced by lone workers in different sectors such as housing, field services and utilities, see the guides in our knowledge hub.
What safety devices do lone workers need?
Today, new technology-driven solutions are helping organisations to manage hazards for lone workers. As a result, there are new levels of safety for solo workers in all sectors. Lone worker apps running on mobile phones have become a key step forward for workers in engineering, construction, transport, electronics, local government and many other sectors. Features to look for in a lone worker app include check-ins, timed sessions, panic alarms and man down alerts which allow staff to be monitored and communicate any problems automatically.
Full consideration needs to be given to the range and coverage of the system. For workers in remote locations, satellite tracking may be needed. Wearable solutions attached to a belt leave hands free to perform working tasks. Comfort and efficiency are two advantages of wearable tech, and another is security. If the device is under a jacket or otherwise out of sight, the wearer can discreetly call for help without the knowledge of a possible assailant.
To see how StaySafe can help you protect your lone workers, 24/7, wherever they are, book your free demo today
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Lone Worker App
Our intuitive app allows employees to check in safely following a lone working session and raise an alert in an emergency.