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COVID-19: Resources for the workplace for lone workers

(EU and Great Britain)


The COVID-19 pandemic brought unique challenges for workplaces that have not been foreseen by regulators. 

Lone workers including work from home are not regulated at the EU level. Each Member State has adopted its own rules governing lone workers and work from home and these rules vary depending on jurisdiction. Depending on in which Member State lone work/work from home is carried out, the employer needs to comply with the local requirements. 

For example, requirements for lone workers applicable in Great Britain are discussed on the HSA website available HERE. (Note: GB is no longer a Member of the EU, however considering language issues this country still serves as a good example). These GB rules apply to lone workers working from home. 

According to information on the HSA website employers must undertake a risk assessment to determine whether or not an employee may work alone. The employer must assess whether an employee is at significantly higher risk when working alone by determining the following.

  • What kind of hazards might lone workers be exposed to?
  • What responsibilities do lone workers have?
  • What control measures could be implemented to minimize the risk to lone workers?
  • What provisions should be in place for lone workers in the case of an emergency?
  • Are there special factors to be considered for lone workers working at a remote location or/and in isolation?

Issues the employer should address when planning safe working arrangements for lone workers including: 

  1. a) Can the risks of the job be adequately controlled by one person?
  2. b) Is the person medically fit and suitable to work alone?
  3. c) What training is required to ensure competency in safety matters?
  4. d) How will the person be supervised?

If the risk assessment shows that it is not possible for the work to be done safely by a lone worker, arrangements for providing help or backup should be put in place.   

All the above needs to be assessed before allowing a worker to work from home in GB. It is the employer's responsibility to assess the situation of each employee working from home and determine the safety measures. 

As mentioned above, the EU does not regulate lone workers. However, to address issues posed by the COVID pandemic and the impact on workplaces the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work issued non-binding Guidelines that aim to help employers and workers to stay safe and healthy in a working environment that has changed significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Guidelines include a section (3.4) on managing workers working from home. The Guidelines cover "standard" situations where work from home involves using office equipment (computer, lamp, etc.) but the client may find some additional tips when adopting their internal guidance. The Guidelines are available online HERE. 

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