What is the lone worker legislation in the UK?
Lone workers are subject to the same health and safety legislation as all other employees. In the UK employers must comply with Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAW or HSWA) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out the general health and safety duties of employers and employees ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ – meaning putting in place policies and procedures that mitigate risks that can be foreseen in advance.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers carry out risk assessments, implement safety procedures, appoint competent people and invest in appropriate training.
Who regulates lone worker legislation in the UK?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It prevents work-related death, injury and ill health. The HSE is a key source for lone worker safety information, providing a wealth of guidance to ensure that businesses adhere to the Health and Safety at Work Act and regulations.
Is lone working legal?
Working alone is completely legal and is usually safe to do so. However, all employers hold a legal responsibility to protect their lone workers and ensure that they are safe when carrying out work activities. The HSE states that: “It will often be safe to work alone. However, the law requires you to think about and deal with any health and safety risks before people are allowed to do so”.
What is my duty of care to lone workers?
According to Mooneerams Solicitors:
“An employer owes his employees a duty of care in common law. By common law we mean that the ‘duty’ is not written down in an act of Parliament but one that has come about due to custom i.e. a practice that has become law over a period of time. The common law duty of care can be defined as ‘a duty to take care of you whilst you are at work’. He must take reasonable care of your safety, avoid exposing you to unnecessary risks and ensure a safe system of working”.
In practical terms, this means individuals responsible for employees in an organisation, are required to proactively identify, assess, control and monitor work tasks and the workplace environment. Risks should be identified and all reasonable steps taken to eliminate risk. Where risk cannot be entirely eliminated, the risk must be minimised as far as is reasonably practical.
What is my responsibility when it comes to lone workers?
HSE Guidelines state that as an employer, you must manage any health and safety risks before people can work alone. This applies to anyone contracted to work for you, including self-employed people.
You can help to reduce the risks to lone workers by:
- Conducting thorough lone worker risk assessments
- Producing a written health and safety policy and ensuring all employees understand it
- Taking steps to reduce or eliminate risk in order to create a safe working environment
- Providing information, instruction, lone worker training and supervision where appropriate
- Regularly reviewing and improving upon lone worker risk assessments and policies
Many employers also use specific lone worker solutions to ensure their staff are safe and can quickly call for help in an emergency. The prevalence of smartphone use has led to a move away from devices – lanyards with a panic button for example – towards apps, as employees already carry a smartphone with them on a daily basis. Police have also issued warnings over the use of lanyards.
In fact, 20% of all lone worker solutions in Europe, and more than 40% in North America, are now app based. StaySafe is a lone worker safety app that gives employers visibility of the location and safety status of lone workers in an emergency.
Find out more about how StaySafe works
What are the penalties of not following lone worker legislation?
Not adhering to health and safety regulations in the UK is a serious offence. On 1st February 2016 the UK passed the Health and Safety Act 2015, which further increased the severity of penalties for non compliance.The main changes were:
1) A move from outcome based sentencing to risk based sentencing
Previously, prosecution was based on the outcome of an accident or incident. However, the new sentencing guidelines are based on the exposure of risk to individuals. This means that if an employee is exposed to a risk that could result in injury or death, the business can be prosecuted before an incident occurs
2) Increased fines
Fines for health and safety breaches increased dramatically (starting as high as the millions) and are now given for exposure to risk. For example, corporate manslaughter fines for large companies increased from a starting threshold of £500,000 to £7.5 million.
3) Lower threshold for imprisonment
If an employer is aware of a health and safety breach in the business that could or has caused injury or death and has not taken action to rectify it, they could face 6-18 months of imprisonment.
Failure to comply with health and safety legislation is likely to lead to;
- Large fines reaching as high as millions
- Additional costs associated with compensation, resources and legal costs
- Lost reputation and ultimately business
- Stop work orders
- Imprisonment of the individuals found responsible
Download our guide: Legal, Moral, Financial: building a business case for lone worker safety