Lone Working

Lone working in forestry presents several challenges which aren’t unique to our industry but the combination of different potential hazards we regularly face when planning works make it an important part of our risk assessment process.

  • The safest approach is to avoid lone working if at all However, if lone working can’t be avoided then the hazards and risks should be considered in each instance in order to identify the most appropriate methods to manage those risks.

The law requires all employers to consider the hazards and risks of lone working (in the same way as we all perform risk assessments). If you employ 5 or more people, there’s a requirement to record that risk assessment – use your Point of Work Risk Assessment/Daily Risk Assessment.

Factors you must consider when completing your risk assessment include:

  • The environment – time of year, weather conditions, ground conditions, remoteness of site, mobile phone coverage etc.
  • The task (including machine maintenance) – some tasks are safer when undertaken by two people due to a number of factors.
  • The worker – consider the capabilities and health of the worker in performing their task Are there any medical conditions which might make lone working unsuitable for them? A worker under the age of 18 should be considered unsuitable for lone working due to lack of experience.

The common control to manage the risks from lone working is monitoring – what type of monitoring is required, and the actions taken when the monitoring system flags the lone worker as out of touch need to be recorded in the risk assessment.

Options for monitoring include:

  • Buddy System – paired workers responsible for each other’s safety with a call-in arrangement ideally every two hours, together with a plan of what to do if they can’t get hold of each Two-way radios are a very effective way for workers on large sites to buddy each other when they can’t see each other.
  • Mobile phone monitoring system – workers are required to call or text a designated number to log their arrival at work/movement to a new location at agreed intervals and the end of the working day.
  • GPS based monitoring and alarm systems – workers use a device which can monitor movement and require a call in/report OK routine that then sends messages via GPS to a monitoring portal and/or designated person or the emergency services if the worker doesn’t respond including their current location.

Lone working isn’t illegal but there are several activities that we have risk assessed as being too hazardous to be undertaken by a lone worker – these include:

  • Use of a chainsaw, power pruners or wood-chippers.
  • Climbing of trees for any purpose or use of rope access techniques.
  • Working adjacent to waterways.
  • Use of any equipment adjacent to overhead power lines, including setting up or maintaining goalposts

The Health and Safety Executive publication Working alone – Health and safety guidance on the risks of lone working INDG73(rev3) gives useful additional information of how to manage lone working.