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HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELLBEING


ADAPTING TO WORKING ALONE


Enhanced government regulations are designed to reduce the risk of workers catching and spreading COVID-19, but their implementation could introduce news risks, particularly if employees are required to work alone, says Naz Dossa, CEO of Peoplesafe.


As organisations begin to get back to business post- lockdown, many of those working in the facilities management industry may find that their roles have changed due to increased health and safety measures.


With workers required to maintain a two-metre distance from others at all times, added to depleted workforces as a result of illness, shielding employees and altered shift schedules, it’s likely that many who usually work in pairs or teams will be working on their own for the foreseeable future.


With this is mind, we anticipate a higher population of lone workers than ever before, and in industries in which lone working has previously been less common, which means it’s vital that every employer understands the steps they should be taking to protect those people appropriately.


The risks of lone working The UK’s Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) definition of a lone worker is, “anyone who works by themselves without direct or close supervision”. This could apply to many trade workers, including plumbers or electricians, who are likely to be travelling to sites alone and carrying out work by themselves in the current circumstances. It could also apply to someone working a night shift, or those that are working from home due to the coronavirus crisis.


Many of the hazards faced by lone workers are the same as other workers; however, they are at greater risk


46 | TOMORROW’S FM


because there may be nobody to call on if something goes wrong. This means it’s likely to take longer for lone workers who have an accident or fall ill to access the help they need, which could result in more serious or even fatal injuries. The risk of health and safety incidents occurring can also be heightened because lone workers are often required to make ‘on the spot’ safety decisions. If the right protocols aren’t in place, and they can’t rely on colleagues to ask for advice, lone workers may be more susceptible to poor decision-making.


The autonomy of working alone can also make employees more vulnerable to stress and isolation, particularly if they feel that they do not have adequate support from their colleagues. Being distant from their managers and co-workers can leave lone workers feeling disconnected, which can have a detrimental effect on their mental health. It’s therefore just as important for employers to be aware of the impact lone working can have on workers’ mental wellbeing as well as their physical wellbeing - and plan accordingly.


Essential, effective safety measures Although there are some high-risk activities in which workers must be supervised (such as working in confined spaces or near exposed live electricity conductors), there are no specific regulations related to lone working. However, whenever workers are carrying out tasks alone,


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