Has the pandemic affected London's lone workers' safety?
19th June 2021
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There are new and important challenges for Londoner lone workers brought about by the new coronavirus pandemic, and there are too new ways in which businesses and organisations can support the members of their staff. The impact of the new coronavirus has been unprecedented and widespread. However, now that the dust starts to settle and businesses are looking into what future working measures and arrangements might look like, they are continuing to face new situations and challenges. Lone working under the COVID-19 pandemic in London is no exception.

The enormous growth in remote and lone working driven by the coronavirus pandemic means that higher numbers of your personnel could be facing an increased risk of aggression from the public as well as work-related stress because of the isolation from colleagues. Over the last twenty years there has been a steady and gradual increase in the number of lone workers in London and the United Kingdom.

Safeguarding lone worker safety is an issue that organisations and businesses may not have come across up until now, particularly those based in urban environments and city centre office blocks before the COVID-19 outbreak. Yet with many thriving business areas deserted through confinement and lockdown and not everyone able to work remotely, this is an issue more and more management teams are having to consider.


What needs to be done?

As with other workers, changes in habitual practice will be necessary in order to protect lone workers from infection. But there are also additional implications when considering the risks specific to lone workers.

With the COVID-19 pandemic came an exponential increase in lone working. Many employees are being initiated into the lone working practice through remotely working at home or finding themselves carrying out different activities alone, whereas previously they were working alongside other members of a team. There are hundreds and hundreds of workers who have been thrown into remote working or lone working situations with increased risks without the privilege of experience or proper planning and preparation.


Access controls and security

Security is indeed one of the major concerns. Making sure that members of the staff do not experience dangerous situations in the workspace. Bear in mind that empty offices and other corporate spaces can be a potential target for theft and robberies, leaving members of the staff on their own much more vulnerable to such situations. Lone workers will require briefing and support in how to identify such threats.

You need to remember that as a business owner or manager you are responsible for lone workers at home as well. While there will not be complicated access concerns in this case, looking after the mental health of the lone workers of your team needs to remain a priority.


Lone workers: managing their infection rates

Most employers are familiar with the theory behind reducing the infection risk and will have already certain measures in place in order to protect the members of their staff. As part of this, businesses and organisations need to check how such rules can impact lone workers. For instance, not all measures are practical at all sites. In case employees and workers are being asked to carry out impractical adaptations, this may frustrate efforts, ultimately increasing risks.

Lone workers won’t have colleagues around them to remind them of the new compulsory behaviours and measures. Therefore, additional training on how to prevent infection will be a very welcomed intervention.


Interacting with the public

Where lone workers are interacting with the public, there is always the challenge of protecting them from a potential infection and in certain cases also from aggression and abuse associated with wearing of face masks and coverings, keeping social distancing rules, etc.

Implementing new behaviours, combined with an increase in stress levels in the public, is leading to increased cases of aggressive behaviour towards employers, workers and representative bodies.


How has the pandemic increased risks for lone workers?

While in most cases people have responded to the new coronavirus pandemic with understanding and kindness, abuse relating to the pandemic continues to be reported. While most of us are adapting to new social norms, like temperature checks or face masks and coverings, there is an increased potential for aggressive behaviour towards individuals who are trying to enforce the guidelines and rules. For instance, the Association of Convenience Stores has reported a clear increase in verbal abuse as well as anti-social behaviour seen by its members.

About the Author

Iñigo Etxebeste

Member since: 31st January 2019

Iñigo is a London-based digital copywriter passionate about the new technologies and the online universe. He spends his time writing about the topics he loves, travelling as much as he can and playing...

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