Lone worker death results in £1.8M fine

Published: 9 May 2017

In recent months Lone Working has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The CSC helpdesk has also noticed a gradual increase in accidents and incidents involving lone working. More often than not manual handling and slips, trips and falls are the usual culprits. On occasion, antisocial behaviour together with spurts of violence and aggression can also be added into the mix.
The industries where this rise has been prominent include hospitality and the executive service apartments. With implementation of effective controls and risk assessments the lone working element of any business can be effectively managed.
Sometimes things can, and do go horribly wrong with the ultimate price being loss of life, resulting in record fines being issued. This was very much the case for South West Water recently:

South West Water Ltd, Exeter pleaded guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £1.8million after a lone working activity resulted in the death of one of its employees.
Truro Crown Court heard Mr Geach, a catchment operator, was working on the sand filtration unit of the Falmouth Waste Water Treatment Works on 30 December 2013 when a colleague discovered him face down in water. He died at the scene having drowned.

Mr Geach was last seen working on the top of the unit several hours before he was found by his colleague who was responding to the lone worker system. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to identify the risk of drowning with the maintenance activity which was undertaken by Mr Geach and his colleagues on a regular basis.

This unfortunate event together with many other lone working related accidents can be avoided if the basic fundamentals are put in place:

  • Always ensure that all lone working activities are risk assessed.
  • All hazards pertaining to the task at hand need to be clearly identified with control measures put in place.
  • Ensure that an effective and tried and tested method of communication is implemented with employees and employer being in constant contact. An immediate emergency response needs to kick in when there are breaks in communication.
  • The effective use of lone working personal devices and radio devices cannot be understated. But this will only be effective if used as outlined in the risk assessment.
  • Ensure that all staff associated with the lone working tasks are familiar with the contents of the risk assessment and control measures which need to be adhered to.
  • Staff should endeavour not to work alone where possible.

If you require further clarity or information regarding risk assessments for lone working, please contact CS Compliance for help.