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Reopening of the Suzy Lamplugh case reminds us that the risks of lone working remain as pertinent as ever - British Safety Council

British Safety Council

3 min read Partner content

National Personal Safety Day provides an opportunity to remind us of the risks to lone workers, and the measures that should be taken to protect employees, says the British Safety Council. 

As the police reopen the tragic Suzy Lamplugh case, the UK marks National Personal Safety Day this week, as the risks relating to lone working remain as pertinent as they have ever done.The British Safety Council is pleased to support the Suzy Lamplugh Trust in raising awareness on this National Personal Safety Day of the risks around lone and mobile working. 

Suzy Lamplugh was a 25-year-old estate agent who went missing when attending a scheduled house viewing on her own in 1986. Suzy was “presumed dead” in 1994 although to date her body has never been found.

Several months after her disappearance, her parents set up the “Suzy Lamplugh Trust” which began campaigning for personal safety whilst lone working. National Personal Safety Day provides an opportunity to remind us of the risks to lone workers, and the measures that should be taken to protect employees.

Technology has drastically improved since the 1980’s with lone worker devices and mobile phones now commonplace. However, whilst such equipment does provide suitable means of tracking lone workers, and for the lone worker to raise an alarm, the risks associated with working alone remain, especially where employers have not invested in safe guarding devices.

Lone working is a daily occurrence for nearly six million people in the UK. The national crime survey has estimated that 150 lone workers are attacked every day, and are also at risk not just from violence, but sudden illness or injury and road traffic accidents.

It is vitally important that lone workers do not become complacent about their personal safety and well-being and receive adequate training and support from their employer to be as safe in their work as they possibly can.

However, it is not just the risk of physical injury that needs to be considered but also the mental wellbeing of lone and mobile workers. The latest HSE statistics show that anxiety and depression caused by or through work is increasing and so it is essential that support networks are in place and that employers are fully committed to ensure their employees who are lone workers, are receiving the human interaction and support they need.

There should also be a renewed focus on exposing and pursuing legal re-dress if necessary against those employers who fail to support and protect their lone workers.

In 2010, Mental Health Matters was fined £50,000 (including costs) for a breach of section 2(1) of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, for failing to do all that was reasonably practicable to ensure the safety of one of their lone workers. Ashley Ewing was killed by a service user who had a history of violence and was known to be unwell. As a lone worker, Ashley visited the service user at home but the charity had failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment for the visit.

A 2017 survey by Health and Safety Magazine reported 1 in 5 businesses admitting to having no critical communication methods or plan in place for their lone and mobile workers. We must also think about the way in which we can support self-employed lone workers who do not typically have any recourse or support due to the nature of being self-employed.

No-one should be injured, made ill – or worse – through their work. The health, safety and wellbeing of lone workers must not be disregarded, and employers must go above and beyond the minimum statutory duty. We also call on the government to provide support and guidance for self-employed lone workers.

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