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Industry focus

Lone working landscape survey reveals worrying trend

Almost 70 per cent of businesses have experienced an incident involving staff working alone in the past three years, with a fifth of these episodes described as being severe in nature, according to research conducted by lone worker organisation StaySafe. 

StaySafe’s ‘The Lone Worker Landscape Report 2021’ also revealed that almost one quarter of the 1,300 surveyed felt unsafe at least once a year.

For the first time, the research has aimed to uncover the disparities between the opinions of employers and lone workers themselves in the hope that the levels of protection afforded to such members of staff can be improved.

The research finds that incidents relating to external factors including accidents, ill health, aggression and violence constitute 41 per cent of recorded lone worker incidents, with the remainder of them involving stress, mental health issues and tiredness.

Manual, traditionally male-dominated industries have higher rates of incidents overall, with 76 per cent of utilities, telecom and construction companies experiencing an incident with a lone worker in the last three years. A high level of facilities management, property and estate agent businesses had reported an incident in the last three years, closely followed by housing and local authorities at 65 per cent.

Charities, social services and the NHS recorded the lowest number of incidents (59 per cent), which may be linked to both the nature of the roles involved, the increased levels of training in these industries and company culture. The research showed that this group conducted the most training, with 6 per cent holding briefings on regulatory requirements relating to lone working, although there could also be an issue with under-reporting in these sectors.

Just over one third (36 per cent) of lone workers have expressed personal safety concerns to their employer, but companies still seem unaware that lone workers are failing to report these concerns, with nearly all (92 per cent) believing that their lone workers are speaking to them regularly about any incidents and concerns.

Don Cameron, CEO of StaySafe, said: “The considerable under-reporting of hazards is a major concern for Health and Safety-focused executives, for example, and particularly so as they seem unaware that their staff members are not having these conversations. Under-reporting can lead to employers under-estimating the real level of risk faced by their staff on a daily basis and, as a consequence, failing to put in the necessary protective measures in order to prevent accidents or incidents.”

The majority of companies surveyed (83 per cent) took action following a lone worker incident, usually through the introduction of improved training or additional protective measures, while 17 per cent of businesses took no action at all.

In addition, the research indicates that companies are often overestimating how well they’ve actually dealt with hazards or incidents with 78 per cent of executives saying that they have addressed their employees’ concerns, although only 45 per cent of lone workers would agree.

Don Cameron observed: “When it comes to reporting incidents, we can see that companies on the whole are doing the right thing. However, the research highlights the fact that Health and Safety executives can only take appropriate action when they’re aware of safety concerns or potential risks and hazards that lone workers may face.”

“It’s clear that there’s a high rate of lone worker incidents, many of which are severe. Health and Safety and security-focused executives and managers have to focus on preventing episodes before they happen by ensuring that they understand the safety concerns of their staff.”

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