Working alone is when work is done in a location where the employee can’t physically see or talk to other staff.
There are a number of things to consider when an employee is working alone:
- security - working alone may put an employee at increased risk from other people that they interact with (eg customers) or strangers (eg risk of violent attack)
- social isolation - employees working alone are at risk of social isolation, managers should make sure that there are regular opportunities to keep in touch and to bring the person together with the rest of the team (even if this is by email, telephone conferences, video conferences etc)
- organisation isolation- employees working alone must receive the same information, training and development opportunities, and consultation as other employees. Managers should invite these employees to attend when there are events, both social and work related
- technological isolation - employees working alone should have access to the same or more advanced technology as other employees (depending on the job requirements)
- safety - the employee’s physical safety related to their job tasks, for example, an arborist working alone, will have different risks to an administrator working alone, but both have risks. Working alone means if something goes wrong or there is an accident etc, there may be no one else there to help the person.
There is a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to eliminate all risks to health and safety, and if risks cannot be eliminated they must be minimised as far as is reasonably practical. Some of these duties are outlined in more detail in the Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016.
Because each work situation is different, risks when working alone should be assessed and minimised or eliminated on a case-by-case basis. Industry guidelines and codes of practice often provide specific help with this.
Examples of sensible options to promote the safety of employees working alone include employees working alone should have:
- a first aid certificate
- an effective means of getting help quickly in an emergency
- regular contact with another person or, if regular contact is impractical, they should check in with another person at regular intervals.
In addition, the Regulations say that an employer must have an effective means of communication with an employee who performs remote or isolated work.