LONE WORKING POLICY: A BEGINNERS GUIDE

While we never set out to be experts in Lone Working policies, we talk daily with organisations working on their safety procedures and policies.  

So we certainly have picked up a few pointers along our journey and we would like to share a few of them to hopefully save you some time with your policy.

Whether you are building your Lone Working policy from scratch or reviewing an existing one, here are a few things we think you might want to consider.

Working Alone Policy: Where to start?

Like all good policy writing, you should start with identifying the problem/s you are trying to solve, then scope solutions to solve them.

Once you have the solutions, put them into writing and assign some responsibilities.

Policies should be live documents that change with the times, so assigning periodic reviews is also a good idea.

Step one: Identify the problem

Here is a good place to start, ask yourself ‘Why do I need a Lone Working Policy, why can’t it be covered by other aspects of our Health and Safety documentation?’

Good question; you don’t need to be doubling up on things covered elsewhere, but working alone often raises a lot of unique issues that might not be clearly covered elsewhere. The lone working policy could focus on:

• what is different about working alone

• the unique risks of working alone

• the unique procedures to follow while working alone

• the unique communication requirements of working alone

• tasks or pre-existing medical conditions that are just too risky to do/have while working alone

We think your policy should also define the roles and responsibilities of those supervising the safety of lone workers, not just the lone worker.

Step two: What happens out there?

You can’t write good policy without some data. We recommend getting your team of lone workers on board right from the start of policy development. Get them all together for an informal chat. Explain that you are reviewing your Lone Working policy and ask them for their input.

Make a list or compile some data on the following things. Ask about:

• their concerns about working alone

• near misses or stories they have heard (from previous jobs)

• what policies they followed at previous jobs

• what would make them feel safer while working alone or what they would like to see in the policy

Some of the things you might also want to work through while the team is together:

• What people like about working alone

• What your team doesn’t like about working alone

• What are the unique risks of working alone for your team

• Identify the unique requirements of communicating while working alone

• Make a list of the tasks that are only carried out as a lone worker

• Make a list of tasks that are sometimes carried out alone

• Identify all the things that are different about working alone

• Review all the summaries of any relevant near miss, incident or injury reports from working alone (in a lot of cases reviewing policy is unfortunately a response to an incident)

Step three: What we should be covering

From here you should have a pretty good idea of what the scope of your policy should be covering and what can be covered by other policies and standards. Once the scope is identified, break it down into manageable items.

A few suggested sub categories, identify:

• tasks that are acceptable to complete alone*

• tasks that are acceptable to complete alone, so long as you have the correct training and equipment,*

• tasks that under no circumstances should be carried out alone (if any).

• How staff are going to communicate what they are doing, where they are and at what stages of the day/shift or even task that they need to confirm with their supervisors they are safe*

• How admin, supervisors and management are going to handle the flow of information about what is happening in the field*

• Who is responsible for looking out for who*

• What happens if/when someone calls the office for help

• What happens if someone doesn’t check-in or return to the office safely as planned*

• How will you identify if people have or haven’t been following the policy*

• How the policy be enforced

• What are the repercussions for not following it

• When will the policy come into force, when it will be reviewed and what is the process for suggesting improvements

*A little plug for our service, using GetHomeSafe – Corporate makes these items all super easy

Step four: Pulling it all together.

This is the formal part: Being policy, this is a document that everybody must follow and as such there should be repercussions for not following it, so it needs to be clear and easy to follow.

Define:

• who the policy covers and when it will come into effect

• the roles as mentioned in the policy

• the situations the policy covers

• the tasks that can and can’t be undertaken while working alone

• any medical conditions that need to be disclosed if working alone Reference standard operating procedures that shall be followed when working alone.

This should include a standard operating procedure covering how lone working staff keep their supervisor informed of what they are doing and when they will check-in next.

Reference standard operating procedures for supervisors and admin that shall be followed when staff are out working alone. This should include standard operating procedures for recording what staff are doing, when they will check-in next and what to do if a staff member either calls for help or doesn’t check-in as planned.

• Define how the policy will be administered and by who

• Define the repercussions of not following the policy

• Define reporting requirements for ensuring the policy is being followed

• Define when the policy will be reviewed

Once again, we stress that we aren’t experts on policy, we have merely put together what we think is a useful guide of some items you could consider when preparing your Lone Worker policy. If you are concerned about compliance or any item please contact a qualified health and safety consultant.

Hopefully you found this of use, please contact us if you did or if you have any suggestions.