Even if your farm has a large number of employees, modern farming methods mean there are often times when farmers are on their own performing certain tasks. Working alone can increase the temptation to undertake jobs that would ordinarily require more people to do safely. It may also mean consequences are more severe if there is an accident and you are unable to summon help quickly. It is therefore vitally important that you consider your safety when lone working and that of any employees you may have.
What the law says:
Working alone is not in itself against the law and it is often safe to do so, however employers have a duty to assess the risks of lone working and put in place suitable measures to deal with them. That means that if you haven’t thought about what could reasonably go wrong because someone or yourself is lone working, and put in place suitable measures to ensure it can be done safely, you will be breaking the law. It is good practice to document your risk assessment and a legal requirement if you have more than 5 employees.
• Involve your employees and those that undertake lone working when you do this.
• Check the control measures that you put in place are working.
• Review the risk assessment annually or when there has been a significant change in the workplace
What can I do practically?
As stated above the law requires you to risk assess your activities and put in place suitable measures. You may wish to consider the following:
• Avoidance-At the very outset you should consider whether it is safe for one person to perform this task alone- you should consider the task being undertaken and the capabilities and training of those undertaking the task. Some activities will be high risk and require an appropriate level of supervision for example – working in confined spaces, working near live electricity conductors. Are the people undertaking the task medically fit to do so.
• Training- ensure that those who are working alone have adequate training to perform the task they are doing. It is important that lone workers are clear about what they are being asked to do and limits are set, communication is key and they should be clear when they should stop working and seek advice or assistance. Often people will take unnecessary risks when they are “Just trying to get the job done” its important that there is a supportive culture to ensure that they do not take unnecessary risks and seek help and advice. It is valuable information to help you review how you do things more safely in the future, and operate more effectively as a business.
• Communication- There should be regular contact between lone worker and supervisor; or lone worker and some other formalised point of contact- for example your wife or neighbour if you are a small enterprise. Most people have mobile phones nowadays- but make sure that you can get reception where you are working and that batteries are fully charged. In an emergency mobile phones will use any network they can detect when calling 999 so keep them to hand. If mobile phone signal is patchy consider radios or regular ‘check-ins’ via landline. There are a number of lone working "apps" for smartphones and lone working gadgets available on the market which you may also consider. They often contain motion sensors to detect when something is wrong and may also provide a “listening service” when you may be in a particular situation. Such devices and apps should not be relied upon solely but may form part of your control measures.
• Check-ins- Formalise a system to ensure that you know where your workers are and what time they will finish. If you are self employed, make sure someone (wife, neighbour, relative) knows where you are and what time you will finish.
• Third Parties-If you have lone workers coming onto your site- for example delivery drivers, advisers, vets, mechanics, you must inform them and their employer of any risks and the control measure. For example you need to inform delivery drivers where overhead power lines that may pose a risk are.
Where can I find out more:
More information on lone working can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/faqs/workalone.htm.