Risk assessment for the lone worker

Sponsored Article by NEBOSH

The world is lone working like never before – as we write this in midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, people everywhere are alone as they work from home. They might be physically ‘safer’ than the traditional lone working roles we think of – security and manufacturing for example – but they are alone and need support in new ways. Let’s not forget, the huge surge in online shopping which has resulted large numbers of lone delivery drivers too.

But how do we know what is required? The proportionate management of risks, that a well conducted risk assessment provides is the answer!
Health and safety professionals are in the business of risk management, something that NEBOSH has recognised for a long time, hence the inclusion of a risk assessment in the latest NEBOSH general certificate specification which launched in 2019.

What makes a great risk assessment for lone workers?

It’s not simply about compliance; risk assessment should never be seen as a form filling exercise, but a tool to help organisations make sensible and proportionate decisions in enabling work to go ahead in a safe and healthy manner. Any good lone worker risk assessment will identify the following steps:

Identify hazards
One of the most important aspects of risk assessment is accurately identifying the potential hazards in the workplace. A good starting point is to walk around a workplace and think about any hazards. In other words, what is it about the activities, processes or substances used that could injure employees or harm their health? An example may be the nature of the workplace itself such as cash handling and the threat of violence.

Assess the risks
Once you have identified the hazards, decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how serious it could be. This is assessing the level of risk. Risk is a part of everyday life and the elimination of all risk is not expected or required. What you must do is make sure that the main risks are identified and the things needed to do to control them, adopted. Risk assessment should only include what could reasonably be expected to be known.

Control the risk
Look at what’s already being done, and the controls already in place. Ask yourself: Can I get rid of the hazard altogether? If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?
Controls might include:
– trying a less risky option;
– preventing access to the hazards;
– organising your work to reduce exposure to the hazard;
– issuing protective equipment;
– providing welfare facilities such as first-aid and washing facilities;
– involving and consulting with workers.

Record significant findings
Make a record of significant findings – the hazards, how people might be harmed by them and what is in place to control the risks. Records should be simple and focused on controls – any paperwork produced should help to communicate and manage the risks in your business. For most people this does not need to be a big exercise – just note the main points down about the significant risks and what was concluded.

Regularly review the controls
You must review the controls you have put in place to make sure they are working. Few workplaces stay the same. Sooner or later, new equipment will be brought in, as will substances and procedures that could lead to new hazards. It may become obvious that existing controls are no longer effective.
Whether you are risk assessing lone workers, or more general workplace activity, make sure you speak to those who are undertaking or managing a task, they will provide the reality check as to how an activity is actually undertaken.

NEBOSH has partnered with IIRSM and Great Britain’s regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, to develop two new risk qualifications which will be launched later this year. Visit the NEBOSH website www.nebosh.org.uk or follow us on social media for the latest news and announcements.

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