Lone but not alone:
Understanding the lone workforce in four facts
First aid is about having the confidence and knowledge to help others - but a large percentage of the UK workforce are lone workers. What happens when they need first aid?
In 2013, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released a lone worker guidance document aimed at employers called ‘Working alone’. The document provides guidance on legislation and assessment, and defines a lone or remote worker as someone who works by themselves without close, constant or direct supervision or contact with colleagues.
HSE describes lone workers as those who:
- work from a fixed base; such as one person working alone in shops, workshops or petrol stations.
- work separately from others on the same premises or work outside the normal hours – for example, security and maintenance staff.
- work alone for long or intermittent periods of time – for example in factories, warehouses, fairgrounds and leisure centres.
- work away from a fixed base – for example healthcare workers, environmental inspectors, cleaners, agricultural and forestry workers, estate agents, postal staff and sales and service representatives.
- work from home.
- are mobile workers – for example, taxi drivers.
All employers must ensure that employees working alone are not exposed to any greater risk than other employees. It’s an employer’s duty to assess potential risks and take steps to avoid or control them.
Fact 1: The International Data Corporation estimates that approximately 1.3 billion people globally are mobile workers, many of which work alone continuously or at various times throughout their workday (Everbridge, 2018).
The number of people working alone is increasing across the UK. As processes in factories and offices become automated, solitary working is becoming more and more common, as fewer employees are required to do the same work.
The push of both flexible working schedules and the development of communication technologies have also contributed to the increase of remote and mobile workers. As well as seeing an increase in people working alone for the majority of the time, there’s also an increase in the amount of people that work alone part of the time (Chappell & Di Martino, 2000).
Fact 2: The International Labor Organization estimates 2.3 million work-related fatalities occur globally each year due to accidents, injuries and diseases (Blackline Safety, 2013).
While lone working and work-related violence are not directly correlated, it’s a reality that remote working does increase levels of vulnerability. HSE’s definition of work-related violence includes verbal abuse and threats as well as physical attacks, and employers have a legal responsibility to reduce the risk of any form of violence to staff.
Protect your workforce by educating them on self-care and first aid when working alone. An emergency first aid at work course equips your lone workers with the knowledge and confidence to help themselves and others in an emergency situation.
Fact 3: It is estimated that up to 8 million people in the United Kingdom are lone workers. That’s 22% of the 31.2m UK working population (People Safe, 2018).
With increasingly flexible working policies and advances in technology allowing for remote working, the number of lone workers is ever increasing. This means that lone workers might not always have a first aider to turn to, so if you’re a lone worker, or are responsible for the welfare of lone workers, make sure self-care first aid knowledge is at the top of your agenda. Organizations must recognise their duty of care and develop these policies and communications with lone workers to ensure they never feel disadvantaged or alone.
It’s in an employer’s best interest to ensure remote workers feel connected, as this will directly impact levels of employee safety, productivity and retention. Our first aid at work courses reinforce worker safety by equipping employees with the confidence to act in an emergency when they’re working alone.
Fact 4: 49% of UK lone workers admitted they’ve felt uncomfortable while working alone (Guardian 24).
Lone work does not automatically imply a higher risk of violence, but it is generally understood that working alone does increase the vulnerability of workers. Verbal abuse (and the fear of abuse) can have a serious impact on an employee's mental wellbeing and can lead to distress and anxiety, and longer-term stress-related ill health.
For employers, the result can be low staff morale, increased turnover of employees, and recruitment difficulties (HSE, 2018). A first aid at work course provides employees with the requisite knowledge and confidence to cope with both the prospect of an emergency situation occurring, as well as an emergency itself when working alone.
The steady increase in numbers of mobile and lone workers has presented new challenges for employers across all industries – how can you keep your employees safe when they’re working alone?