Risk assessments for lone workers

Lone workers increase the flexibility of the workforce and can make it possible for an organisation, especially a care organisation, to deliver better services to their clients. However, having an employee work alone also presents unique risks and challenges. One thing that needs to be taken into account is the need to conduct risk assessments for lone workers.

What is a risk assessment?

According to Unison, a risk assessment is a process of identifying what hazards currently exist or may appear in the workplace. A risk assessment defines which workplace hazards are likely to cause harm to employees and visitors.

What should you include in a risk assessment?

Risks need to be considered in all aspects of the working environment. Here are some important factors to consider:

  • Hazards – things that may pose a danger to a lone worker such as fire safety, manual handling, risk of working alone or slips.
  • Tasks – cleaning with chemicals, operating cleaning equipment, administering medications, using cooking facilities.
  • Organisation policies – systems and process of work, shift patterns, working hours or lone working.

Lone care workers, their situations and responsibilities

Lone workers in the field of home care have a wide and varied list of responsibilities and work in a variety of different situations.

Lone care workers often find themselves employed outside of normal working hours, when other services are not available, or when other risks or dangers may present themselves.  They often work evenings or even overnight, on the weekends, and on holidays.

Additionally, home care workers are not working in a facility – they are visiting clients within their homes. That in itself can lead to unusual risks, like the need to park in unsafe areas, exposure to potential accidents from using the equipment present in these homes, or travelling to areas that present particular risks. For example, lone workers may find themselves in a remote rural area or a high-risk urban area that they might not otherwise travel to.

How a risk assessment can help

One way that employers can help their lone workers is to take responsibility for themselves by conducting risk assessments. That is, the onus to assess risk should not be placed solely on the worker. The results of this assessment should be analysed to detect risks so that safety measures and systems to protect the worker are implemented.

How often do I need to do a risk assessment for a lone worker?

The frequency of risk assessment should be dependent upon both the organisation’s safety policies and the risks which have previously been assessed in regard to an individual worker’s situation.

An initial risk assessment should be part of any organisation’s safety policies. That assessment should in turn be used to determine when the next follow-up assessment or supervisory period should take place. Additionally, it is wise for organisations to determine a minimum frequency for risk assessments, based on their average lone worker’s circumstances. Finally, whenever there is a change in the worker’s situation, a new risk assessment should be performed in order to reevaluate the need for safety measures and systems.

Digital risk assessments

With workforce management software, risk assessments can be completed and uploaded digitally – edited quickly and published instantly for team members to view. This means that risk assessments can be improved and amended as policies change, incidents occur or clients onboard – in a timely manner. It also allows risk assessments to be audited efficiently and can be used to evidence compliance.

Want to know more about the software that can help your business? Check out our workforce management hub.