The shocking results of a 2015 Royal College of Nursing (RCN) survey revealed that half of community-based nursing staff have been subjected to abuse within the past two years. This prompted the RCN to issue new guidance on how to work alone safely.
Many different job roles can involve lone working, from security guards to plumbers, cleaners to petrol station attendants and, in this case, community-based nurses. The definition of lone worker is simply someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision.
What should employers do?
Where you have a role that requires lone working, your obligation as an employer is to carry out a risk assessment and ensure that risks identified are adequately mitigated to provide a safe working environment. On a practical basis, this might simply involve ensuring that the worker has a mobile phone with them at all times and the number of someone on-call in case of any issues. However, if a particular or serious risk is identified, the employer will have a greater obligation to take steps to mitigate this. In its guidance, the RCN suggests implementing a buddy system, periodic telephone contact (checking-in) or use of surveillance equipment, it also suggests taking advantage of new technologies that can facilitate panic alarms with built in GPS location trackers to enable the user to call help directly to where they are.
Of course you’d hope that employees aren’t going to find themselves in dangerous environments, but just taking the time to talk about potential issues with them and making plans can make someone working alone feel more supported and integrated in the business.
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Employers should have a lone worker policy, carry out risk assessments, and take steps to manage and reduce risks such as providing nurses with means of raising the alarm, regular checks by supervisors and establishing buddy systems.