Lone working is often a required aspect of providing conclusive domiciliary & home care support. We can define a lone worker as someone ‘who works by themselves without direct supervision’ and this is clearly the case for the majority of lone workers in the home care sector. Caregivers may have multiple appointments scheduled for any given day, during that timeframe they are expected to travel between locations independently and may be the only other person on the premises when providing care. This can increase risks substantially for lone workers and it’s vital that employers do all they can to keep caregivers safe when lone working. Let’s take a brief look at some of the risks which may pose significant problems:

-  Caregivers may need to travel on their own, after daytime hours.
-  Avoiding accidents when lone working isn’t guaranteed, particularly when working in homes you are unfamiliar with.
-  Being exposed to potential infections & issues related to sudden illness.
-  Office staff not being accessible for advice during ‘out of office’ hours.
-  Hazards associated with handling medication, chemicals & cleaning products.

The Duties Of Home Care Employers

All employers have an important duty to lone worker safety & to put in place robust lone worker risk assessments before new home care arrangements start. Whist there is no specific legislative guidance on lone working situations, it is clear that employers have a duty to ensure a safe working environment – this is clearly demonstrated in the Health And Safety At Work Act 1974 & Management of Health & Safety At Work Regulations 1999. There are many lone working safety points which need to be considered and we believe open communication & well maintained processes are the base for success. There are also many clear advantages for the employer, as well as the carer – as safe home care workers are likely to be happy in their roles, less likely to take legal action & will provide better support to service users.

lone working in home care

Examples of required employer responsibilities in home care are:

-  Carrying out lone worker risk assessments, which predominantly focus on lone worker safety & identifying potential hazards.
-  Having adequate insurance policies which cover lone working scenarios.
-  Putting company specific systems in place which keep workers safe & records the destinations of lone workers, as they pass through their daily responsibilities.

Keeping Safe And Avoiding Accidents When Lone Working

Now that you know how important lone working safety is and some of the responsibilities which are required by employers, the next section of our blog looks at the ways we can keep caregivers safe when lone working:

Car Safety & Parking Measures – Supporting carers to ensure their cars are road worthy, carry enough fuel & have GPS satellite navigation capabilities is a noteworthy suggestion. Carers should never have valuable equipment or medication on display in their vehicles and should always lock doors whilst traveling between appointments. Carers should also have the necessary information about where is the best location to park, always prioritising well-lit & well-used official car parks.

Setting Up Important Tracing Procedures – Keeping caregivers safe when lone working does involve knowing beforehand schedules for the day & creating a system which lets staff update their whereabouts. This can either be done by ringing a team member during set times of the day or through digitally signing in & out of each location. Avoiding accidents when lone working isn’t guaranteed however at least with a tracking policy in place, help can be sent to the last known location of a carer - if they are reported as a concern.

Appropriate Training – training is vital for all care staff but because lone workers do not have the direct support of colleagues, it’s absolutely essential that they are regularly trained to keep themselves safe. Lone workers in home care settings need to be comfortable using first aid kits (potentially on themselves), they also need to be knowledgeable when handling chemicals, waste or heavy objects. It is also vital that they know their own company policies inside out, for example one may be that they shouldn’t work in places where they are locked in – looking for the signs of this will help keep them safe.

Lone Worker Risk Assessments – are critical to avoiding accidents when lone working and both the employer & employee have a responsibility to ensure any record keeping associated with their risk assessment remains up to date. Assessments should provide a thorough examination of the type of working environment, the individuals involved, what kind of training may be required and also whether the wider neighbourhood poses any heightened risk. If any home care assignment is confirmed as too dangerous by the risk assessment, then two home care personnel should be deployed for that circumstance rather than sending anyone in alone.

That concludes our latest blog, covering lone worker safety in the home care environment. At BVS we do provide extremely helpful video training on this very subject, why not try our Lone Worker Training Course & share it with any colleagues who would find it useful.