No this is not some festive invitation to on line dating but the rather more serious and distinctly unseasonal topic of managing the employment and heath and safety risks from lone working. This issue first came to prominence following the disappearance of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh in 1986. Lone working, whether outside the office, or in many retail businesses, remains a difficult issue for employers.
This topic hit the headlines last month when the national convenience store retailer, Mc Coll's was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £78,000 in costs for failing to do enough to protect it's employees. The prosecution arose from 6 violent robberies at four branches between April 2011 and January 2012. There were two main criticisms namely a failure to consistently carry out lone working risk assessments and also a failure to carry out adequate assessments for workplace violence.
Lone working itself is, of course, not illegal. Health and safety legislation obliges employers to ensure the health and safety of lone workers and this, in turn, requires the sort of risk assessment process which would be applicable to any other type of work. Certainly employers should consider not only introducing a lone working policy but also keeping it under regular review. Appropriate training , employee monitoring and, where appropriate, the installation of additional security measures such as bandit screens , controlled entry systems and hold up alarms should also be considered. Useful guidance can be found in the HSE guidance on lone working and the Safe Bet Alliance revised code.
Many work activities would be impracticable without lone working. Cost and resource may be a relevant factor in justifying the need or requirement for lone person working. However as McColl's discovered, if cost is the sole factor, then the courts will view this as a seriously aggravating factor, and fines imposed accordingly. The change to purchase that late night bar of chocolate may become a thing of the past...
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