Lone Workers

Do you have employees who work alone in your store?

Find out what you’re required to do and how to minimise any risk for your lone worker. The Health and Safety at Work Act states that working in isolation is a hazard that must be managed. This includes workers who are working in store by themselves, commonly referred to as ‘lone workers’. 

Safety and security for lone workers 

The Health and Safety at Work General Risk and Workplace Management Regulations require PCBUs (a person/entity conducting a business or undertaking) to manage any risks to the health and safety of lone workers. If risks cannot be eliminated, they must be minimised, as far as is reasonably practical.  

The regulations state that you must have an effective means of communication with an employee who performs isolated work. 

Here are some steps you should consider to ensure the safety of your lone worker: 
  • Design a plan with your employee for how they can get help quickly in an emergency 
  • Draw up a plan of what risks an employee might face as a lone worker and discuss how these can be eliminated or minimised 
  • Ensure your emergency contact details for your employees are up-to-date 
  • Ensure you have a first aid kit on hand 
  • Set up a system of regular, scheduled contact with your employee. 

You could also implement a lone worker policy. The purpose of this is to address and manage the risks of your employees working alone. Each business has its own risks, and the policy should reflect the individual needs of lone workers. 

  • the types of risks lone workers will face 
  • what you, as the employer, and workers must do to control the risks 
  • what defines a lone worker 
  • how to address issues related to lone working. 

How to manage breaks for a lone worker 

Employees are entitled to paid rest and unpaid meal breaks that: 

  • give them a reasonable chance during work periods to rest, refresh and take care of personal matters 
  • are appropriate for the length of their working day. 

It can be difficult to manage an employee’s entitlements to breaks if they are a lone worker. These could be managed by: 

  • negotiating break times with employees — this could be a good way to ensure the store is open over peak trading times. Please note that this must be agreed between you and the employee, preferably in writing  
  • making a sign that informs customers that you will be ‘back soon’ or returning at a specified time. 

Please note that you cannot provide financial compensation instead of offering a meal break if an employee works for more than four hours. This exception only applies for those engaged in national security delivery or emergency services, where continuity is critical.  

If you’re still not sure you can contact us at [email protected] or give us a call on 0800 472 472 (1800 128 086 from Australia). 

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