What happens if I don’t follow lone worker legislation?
As with any legislation, failure to comply can result in penalties.
Breaking the directives within health and safety legislation can result in fines for both your business and individuals. For extreme breaches of lone worker policy, you could even be sent to prison.
Of course, there is an even worse outcome than this – when it comes to health and safety, your negligence can cause serious injury or even the death of an employee.
As an employer, you have a duty of care, as well as a legal responsibility, to keep staff safe. Here we take a closer look at employers’ responsibilities to employees and what can happen to you if you don’t follow lone worker legislation.
Legal responsibility to lone workers
While occupational health and safety law differs across countries and regions, the core principle remains the same; to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees as far as is reasonably possible.
This often includes carrying out risk assessments to identify risks, taking appropriate steps to reduce them and preparing staff to deal with any remaining risks that cannot be controlled.
A safe working environment should always be provided and where appropriate additional training, equipment and procedures should be implemented.
The failure to comply with legislation is likely to result in legal action which could cost the business in fines, resources and time, with cases taking months or even years to complete. In some cases, the individual employer could also face prosecution and imprisonment if they are found to be at fault.
Learn more about the lone worker legislation in our Lone Worker Guide
Case study: Inadequate risk assessment leads to £1.8 million fine
South West Water in the UK were fined £1.8 million for failing to protect a lone worker who drowned in an infiltration tankduring a routine maintenance check. It was found that the company had repeatedly ignored advice to deal with potential dangers.
It was reported that “South West Water was well aware of the risks. It was warned workers could fall into tanks and had no way of getting out. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) raised concerns about railing heights, trip hazards and working alone after a worker fell in an earlier incident. But the HSE’s recommendations had not been acted on”.
No risk assessments had been carried out despite the risks being pointed out several times. The judge described it as ‘an accident waiting to happen’.
South West Water Ltd pleaded guilty to breaking the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. They were fined £1.8million and ordered to pay costs of £41,600.
The importance of risk assessments
Conducting risk assessments is an integral part of adhering to health and safety legislation and meeting your duty of care to lone workers. In the case of South West Water, their failure to conduct a risk assessment, and act upon its findings, cost a worker their life.
The purpose of the assessment is to identify what needs to be done to control health and safety risks for your lone workers. When carrying out a risk assessment, you must consider any hazards related to the work being carried out, the people they come into contact with and the different environments they travel and work in.
We have created a comprehensive guide to conducting a lone worker risk assessment – including a free risk assessment template. Download the guide
Moral responsibility to lone workers
The employer also holds a moral responsibility to protect their employees. Unsafe working conditions could leave workers, as well as their friends and family, feeling uncomfortable and frightened.
Low morale and higher levels of stress are likely to result in lower levels of productivity and a rise in employee sick leave. A 2020 CIPD survey revealed that over a third of respondents said that stress-related absence had increased over the past year.
With millions of working days being lost worldwide to work-related illness and injury annually, the performance of the organisation overall can also be affected. If the work environment is particularly stressful, a company may also notice a high turnover of staff. The CIPD consistently reports that ‘turnover has a negative effect on organisational performance’. Not only are there high costs involved in turnover, but extra time and resources are spent on training and transitioning in new employees.
Case Study: council fined £100k after lone worker policy failure
A local authority was fined after two social workers were assaulted during a home visit. Whilst taking notes, both suffered serious head injuries and subsequent PTSD after being struck with a metal object by the mother of a child they were visiting. The Health and Safety Executive found the local authority failed to follow its corporate lone working policy or violence and aggression guidance. No risk assessment was completed and staff were not trained accordingly.
London Borough of Brent pleaded guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, section 2(1) and were fined £100,000 with costs of £10,918.88
The importance of lone worker policies
As highlighted by the Brent Council case, employers must have, and follow, a lone worker policy to ensure that staff are aware of risks and how to mitigate them.
After the Brent Council hearing, HSE inspector Neil Fry commented: “The local authority in this case failed to adhere to and implement its own systems and procedures for the management of lone working and violence and aggression against social workers. This risk could have been reduced in a number of ways including carrying out the visit in a controlled environment, such as the local social workers’ office.”
A lone working safety policy is a guide that will set out your companies’ rules on working alone and help your employees to understand the risks they may face. It is an official document that covers the risks faced by lone working staff and the responsibilities of both the employer and employee in ensuring that lone workers can work safely.
It includes your lone worker risk assessment and practical instructions, as well as any details on any lone worker solutions in place and how to use them.
Need help producing your lone worker policy document? We have produced an expert guide which covers everything you need to include, including a free template. Download the guide
The financial costs for not following lone working procedure
As well as a reduction in productivity, there are a large number of financial costs involved in dealing with workplace accidents.
Here are just some of the things which employers may need to pay for if and when accidents occur:
- Work related sickness/injuries
- Replacing Staff
- Investigating an accident
- Loss of business reputation – in some cases the impact on a business’ reputation may be the biggest impact
- Loss of contracts/clients
- Damage to property due to accidents
Case study: Failure to address fall-from-height risk costs UK business nearly £2m
Karro Foods Ltd, a food manufacturer, was fined £1.9m plus £8k costs after two workers were critically injured after falling more than four metres through a roof light. Injuries sustained included a punctured lung, rib fractures, a fractured skull, on-going memory and balance problems and subsequent mental health issues.
After the fine was given out, HSE inspector Mark Slater said that it was “a wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to provide adequate controls against the risks arising from working at height.”
Your staff face a myriad of risks every day. If an employee works alone, that risk is increased as there is no one there to raise the alarm if something goes wrong. As an employer, it is clear that it is in yours, and your employees, best interest to protect your staff from harm.
One of the ways to do this is to provide lone workers with a way to quickly and easily signal for help in an emergency situation. Lone worker solutions like StaySafe give you visibility of a lone workers location, enabling you to send help directly to them if they send a panic alert or fail to check in as expected. StaySafe also features a man down alarm, to help protect staff from falls. You can also outsource the monitoring of your lone worker solution to specialist monitoring partners to ensure that workers are protected 24/7.
Our lone worker app has been specially designed to meet your health and safety obligations to lone workers. Find out more about StaySafe