WELFARE -The Lone Worker

I have been going round many parks departments, and farms over the past few months and am taken by the fact that the volume of staff now employed is now much less than in the past. I have found applies on Golf Courses and Sportsgrounds.

The problem of the lone worker has to be considered - is it legal to leave an operator alone all day? - what if something happens?

There is a Duty of Care under the Health & Safety at Work Act and under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations, to ensure that employees are not being exposed to undue risk. The answer to the question is thus - RISK ASSESSMENT.

There are basically four considerations to be looked at before starting the risk assessment:


On some sport areas there are no problems, as the extent of the area is not large and there are other employees close at hand. Many parks, bowling clubs and tennis clubs are like this.

However some golf courses are built that nine holes are played out from the golf clubhouse and facility, and nine holes are played back. This can mean that the Golf Greenkeeper can be two miles from the nearest help.

There also is the consideration of early working or late working, where no-one else is on the premises.


The equipment being used is obviously a consideration and I can think of several tasks that should not be carried out by an individual, on his own.


Other tasks, whilst there could be a potential hazard, would be acceptable to lone working as long as others knew of the work in hand and would be available to raise the alarm after a given period.

However even with tasks that have no hazard in themselves it may be that the task is associated with other hazards

· Raking of bunkers could be hazardous from golf balls, from falling in the rivetted wall, etc.


Some work practices can be hazardous but with thought and consideration can become acceptable for lone working. This is the case for most maintenance work on the course or sportsground and communication is the key to the problem.


One of the major considerations for lone working has to be the person.

I have known individuals who have suffered from all of these and could not be 'lone workers'.

After having looked at this, the next question is: what happens if? Have you arrangements in hand should an accident occur?

So what do you do have to do for the Risk Assessment?

List the hazards - the likely accidents which could happen on the course

There are three basic considerations

I have been called into several cases involving lone working, one will illustrate the problem.

A Farm Manager examined his potatoes in store on a Saturday afternoon. He walked over the top of the potato boxes and in the dim light walked over the edge. He fell five boxes high, around fifteen feet and broke an arm, fractured his skull, cracked his back in two places and broke his hipbone such that the head of the femur bone came up under his arm. His wife had left half an hour earlier for work as a nurse on late shift. When she arrived back at 12.00 midnight she would not have registered anything wrong as he was going down to the Rugby Club with friends that evening!

After he regained consciousness, the manager managed to drag himself between the boxes and the wall, a distance of around 100 feet, to finally reach the door and after reaching the door, he passed out..

Coincidentally, the only area which could be used for skateboarding and rollerblading for miles around was the concrete yard at the door of the barn. The children found him and summoned help.

Substitute any of the above hazards and you can clearly see that a similar situation could arise in each case.

After identifying the hazards, the RISK ASSESSMENT HIERARCHY should be followed:

· Elimination - don’t carry out the task unless two operators are present.

· Substitution - carry out the task in a safer way which will allow lone working..

· Administrative controls - make sure that everyone knows where you are and when you will return.

· Engineering controls - use of mobile phones or two way radios.

· The cost of these is now so low as to be possible and cost effective - they could also be useful in the management of the organisation

Some key questions must be asked:

All these questions require answers before you can send an operator out to work alone or indeed leave a receptionist or clerk/ clerkess alone in an office.


HSE Working alone in safety: Controlling the risks of solitary work