Lone working

Overview

What is lone working?

Lone working represents a situation where a person has neither visual nor audible communication with someone else who can summon assistance in the event of an accident, illness or other emergency.  Lone working can, therefore, include those work activities undertaken both:

  • during normal departmental working hours (8:00 – 18:00 weekdays)
  • outside normal departmental working hours (includes weekends and holidays when the University is closed)

Why consider lone working activities?

Lone working is common practice in most organisations, especially in research environments such as this, where it is often difficult to confine work activities to 'normal working hours'. However, the Department recognises the importance of ensuring that all lone working activities are managed appropriately to minimise risk. The safety of workers must always be carefully considered in these situations, since other colleagues are unlikely to be present to assist in an emergency. Such emergencies may arise due to fire, accidents and unauthorised intruders.

Risks

Risk assessment of lone working activities

The Department applies a risk based approach for managing lone working activities, consistent with the University's 'Lone Working' policy (PDF).

Low risk activities

Lone working activities should be restricted, where possible, to activities presenting a low risk even if control measures fail. For example, persons working alone in offices outside normal working hours are unlikely to be at significant risk provided that appropriate fire and security precautions are in place. Indeed, there is no evidence that this type of lone working activity presents an unacceptable risk requiring special monitoring arrangements, any more than many other activities that individuals undertake alone outside work. It is also acceptable for low risk laboratory activities to be performed by a lone worker provided the person performing the task is:

  • competent (i.e. has the necessary experience and has received appropriate training)
  • capable of dealing with any reasonably foreseeable accident or other emergency alone, without the assistance of colleagues

Higher risk activities

There are occasions when it is not appropriate for activities to be performed by lone workers unless special arrangements involving help or back up are introduced. Special arrangements must be considered for all activities where it is judged that the risk cannot be adequately controlled by one person. A formal Lone working risk assessment (MS Word , 43kb)‌ is required for these higher risk lone working activities, including a description of arrangements needed to ensure the work can be carried out safely.

Prohibited lone working activities

Lone working must not be undertaken where there is a reasonably foreseeable risk that the work might result in an accident which would be sufficiently serious to require a second person to be available to summon help. Those tasks that are considered unacceptable for a lone worker to perform under any circumstances must be documented in the Lone working risk assessment (MS Word , 43kb)‌ and displayed in the Safety File or 'Local Rule' of each group.

Individuals at special risk

Lone working activities are often inappropriate for certain individuals or groups of workers, for example, individuals with a known medical condition, and those with limited experience or training. For this reason, both Undergraduate and Masters Research project students require formal written permission from their supervisors before low risk out-of-hours work is allowed. It is equally important to note that supervisors of all workers (for example PhD students) are satisfied that an individual has reached an appropriate level of competence before independent work, including lone working, is allowed.

Responsibilities

Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of the Group Leader / Manager of each group to:

  • identify and assess those activities requiring special arrangements to monitor the safety of lone workers
  • identify those activities that must not be performed by lone workers
  • bring these work activities to the attention of their workers

Arrangements

Arrangements for all lone workers

  • All lone workers should be aware of the following as part of their local safety induction training:
    • the University's emergency contact number (3333) to summon help in an emergency or if they experience difficulties
    • the contact number for Security (4444) if an individual wishes to log in and out during out-of-hours work activities
    • the accident, incident reporting procedure
    • restrictions on lone working activities within their group
    • any specific precautions and arrangements considered necessary for some lone working activities
  • Supervisors of all lone workers must be satisfied that an individual has received appropriate training and has the necessary experience before allowing lone working.
  • It is good practice for those individuals working outside normal working hours to inform a friend or family member of their location and approximate time of return.

Special arrangements for higher risk lone working activities

  • Special arrangements are required for higher risk lone working activities that may need to be undertaken. These should be considered for all activities where it is judged that the risk cannot be controlled adequately by one person.
  • Although lone workers cannot be subject to constant supervision, it is important that proportionate measures are selected to monitor the safety of individuals engaged in these higher risk activities. These include:
    • periodic monitoring of lone workers by the supervisor or other colleague
    • lone workers logging in and out with the Security Centre (extn. 4444) and providing an indication of the likely duration of the work
    • regular contact between the Security Centre and lone worker via telephone
    • the use of automatic warning devices which raise an alarm in the event of an emergency e.g. those activated if signals are not received periodically from the lone worker; or alarms which activate in the absence of activity