DGHE & Coronavirus

Are you a Lone worker in the Care Sector? Are you Safe?

Mar 29, 2016 | General| Articles| Health and Social Care


“Prudence is not hesitation, procrastination, or moderation. It is not driving in the middle of the road.

It is not the way of ambivalence, indecision, or safety.” John Ortberg- American Christian, preacher,author and speaker.


Peoplesafe estimates that 6.8 million people in the United Kingdom are lone workers, which is 22% of the 31.2m UK working population. Some studies suggest that Studies have shown that as many as 46% of people in full time employment count themselves as lone workers. Official definitions state that a lone worker is an employee who performs an activity that is carried out in isolation from other workers without close or direct supervision. The NHS defines lone working as 'any situation or location in which someone works without a colleague nearby; or when someone is working out of sight or earshot of another colleague.' This definition would include hundreds of thousands of NHS staff and workers in the care sector.

During the early 2000’s, the NHS estimated that there were 116,000 incidents of violence against staff, which ranged from verbal abuse, to serious assault. Although it is not known what proportion related to Lone Workers, it is generally accepted that this group of staff is at high risk. The Department of Health suggests that the situation is mirrored in the social care sector and that statistics are significantly under reported. Reasons include lack of management support, self-blame, and a belief that violence and abuse is part of the job. This is unacceptable!

Training for lone workers to fully understand the risks and precautions is essential and lone workers need to understand when to stop and when seek advice when they are unsure. Similarly, employees new to a job may need to be accompanied until safety competencies are achieved. Supervisors should periodically visit to observe the work being done and there should be regular contact by radio, telephone or mobile phone. Automatic warnings should be activated if specific signals are not received at base, and the alarm raised in the event of no contact or should an emergency develop.

Similarly, care should be taken to check that the lone worker has returned to base, or home, on completion of the work with voice contact rather than messages and assumptions of safety.

In organisations that take a responsible view, there will be an understanding that lone workers are especially open to risks which cannot always be managed. They will therefore draft a Lone Worker Policy and work with staff to explain it, make sure it is sensible, and then follow up its implementation to ensure it is being followed. But it is a dual responsibility. The employer must take due care and provide responsible training and supportive security measures that are followed up and tested regularly.

Sadly, studies show that many lone workers are generally are unaware of the content and procedures in their lone worker policy. Even worse, where the policies require movement sheets and diary updates, staff reaction is often that the system has a hidden management agenda in monitoring staff movement. Staff perceive the process to be a “waste of time” and are concerned that the information will used to compare work schedules and hence to measure productivity. With the huge growth in the health and care sectors this has to change and safety and security needs to be taken seriously.