Lone but not alone: Understanding the lone workforce in three facts

Written by Anna Bishop
Nov 16, 2020

Anna is a Training Product Manager at Red Cross Training responsible for the development and review of our training products.

First aid is about having the confidence and knowledge to help others and due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, lone working is much more common. But what happens when those working alone need first aid?

In 2020, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released a lone worker guidance document aimed at employers called ‘protecting lone workers’. The document provides guidance on legislation and assessment and defines a lone or remote worker as someone who works by themselves without close, constant, or direct supervision or contact with colleagues.

 

The HSE describes lone workers as those who:

  • work from a fixed base, such as one person working alone in shops, workshops, or petrol stations.
  • work separately from others on the same premises or work outside the normal hours – for example, security and maintenance staff.
  • work alone for long or intermittent periods of time – for example in factories, warehouses, fairgrounds, and leisure centres.
  • work away from a fixed base – for example healthcare workers, environmental inspectors, cleaners, agricultural and forestry workers, estate agents, postal staff and sales and service representatives.
  • work from home.
  • are mobile workers – for example, taxi drivers.

All employers must ensure that employees working alone are not exposed to any greater risk than other employees. It is an employer’s duty to assess potential risks and take steps to avoid or control them.

 

Fact 1: 46.4% of employees did some of their work from home during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in April 2020*

Of those working from home, 86.0% did so as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.*

Nicole Vazquez of Worthwhile Training said that “employers need to be aware that their home workers are lone workers and should be treated as such, particularly when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.”

A recent poll by the British Red Cross found that that 67% of people who voted, experienced stress more often since the start of the pandemic.**

Read our blog to find out more information about how to look after your own wellbeing, as well as supporting your team, alongside some top tips to create inclusive remote teams.

 

Fact 2: It is estimated that up to 8 million people, 22 per cent, of the UK working population are lone workers.***

As processes in factories and offices become automated, solitary working is becoming more and more common, as fewer employees are required to do the same work.

The push of both flexible working policies and the development of communication technologies have also contributed to the increase of remote and mobile workers. As well as seeing an increase in people working alone for most of the time, there’s also an increase in the amount of people working alone for part of the time.

 

Lone workers might not always have a first aider to turn to, so if you’re a lone worker, or are responsible for the welfare of lone workers, make sure self-care first aid knowledge is at the top of your agenda. Organizations must recognise their duty of care and develop these policies and communications with lone workers to ensure they never feel disadvantaged or alone.

 

It is in an employer’s best interest to ensure remote workers feel connected, as this will directly impact levels of employee safety, productivity, and retention. Our first aid at work courses reinforce worker safety by equipping employees with the confidence to act in an emergency even when they’re working alone.

 

Fact 3: 49% of UK lone workers admitted they’ve felt uncomfortable while working alone****

Lone work does not automatically imply a higher risk of violence, but it is generally understood that working alone does increase the vulnerability of workers. Verbal abuse (and the fear of abuse) can have a serious impact on an employee's mental wellbeing and can lead to distress and anxiety, and longer-term stress-related ill health.

 

For employers, the result can be low staff morale, increased turnover of employees, and recruitment difficulties. Our first aid at work courses provide employees with the confidence to recognise when they may need help, with both the prospect of an emergency situation occurring, as well as an emergency itself when working alone.

 

Sources:

*Office for National Statistics

**British Red Cross LinkedIn poll

***EE annual statistics 2019

****EE and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust

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Topics: First Aid

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