The issue of working alone in building work is a difficult one, as businesses and individuals have no legal obligation to ensure that there is supervision and company for each worker. However, the management of the business does have an obligation to ensure that risk assessments are taking place and health and safety regulations are being followed to the letter.
Every job and workplace has its hazards, and it is important that these are identified and communicated back to the workforce, especially if there are going to be scenarios when building staff are going to be working alone. Measures need to be put into place to ensure safety and to control the risks. The more awareness your workforce have, the more these risks can be avoided.
The control measures for lone worker safety include:
- Staff training (including first aid, risk assessment, manual handling, fire training, etc.)
- Instruction (including workshops and lectures)
- Protective equipment
- Regular checks of equipment and work areas
Building work can be tough – especially for lone workers – so it is the responsibility of the company to ensure that risk assessments highlight which areas of the job are too difficult or dangerous for lone workers and ensure that measures are put into place to enable supervision or extra building staff for those tasks.
In the building trade, lone workers often work at more than one site. In this instance, it is the responsibility of the employer to inform the employer on the next site of any risks, and the control measures that should be taken. The more employers help each other out, the safer the working environments will be for lone workers.
Understanding what constitutes low-risk and high-risk activity can be the difference between adequate supervision and being over-staffed, which is a scenario that most businesses won’t want to be in, especially during these tough economic times. A high-risk scenario could be working in confined spaces, working with electrics or live conductors, where supervision is required. The opposite end of that scale is completing the last couple of hours of daily tasks, including simple cleaning tasks, putting equipment away and similar tasks.
There is no reason why lone workers should be any more at risk in the workplace or building site than groups of employees. As long as the right precautions are made by management, there are security procedures in place, and all employees are trained in all areas of danger and difficulty – including fire, equipment failure, illness and accidents, there is no reason why the workplace cannot run as adequately with one person than it can with a dozen.
Some scenarios are simply common sense. There are plenty of tasks that should not be taken on by lone workers, including heavy lifting and electrical work. There is the safety element of course, but there is also the time is takes to complete a task. Lone workers rushing to complete a job that could be more effectively undertaken by two people could end up injuring themselves or becoming prone to stress and depression, which are not issues you automatically associate with the building trade but are existing issues nonetheless. Job satisfaction for lone workers is as important as safety, and the two go hand-in-hand.
Katie Matthews is a Marketing Executive at C3 a specialist in multimedia platforms for mass call handling and interactive messaging services in the UK. Katie writes about topics covering technical applications, managed hosting and communications systems for business.
- This New Years, Commit To Workplace Health And Safety(spillfixusa.wordpress.com)
- Workplace risk assessment: Lives and worker wellbeing at stake(synergyforliving.wordpress.com)
- China’s lonely migrant workers(edition.cnn.com)