11.5 Lone working
This Lone Working information has been adapted with permission from the Diocese of Oxford's Lone Working Policy 2014, with thanks.
We strongly recommend that you risk assess any activities that involve lone working; for example, opening and locking places of worship, preparing places of worship before services, encouraging an open church environment and other situations relevant to your environment.
Lone working is an everyday and essential practice for clergy and church workers. Lone working includes any work activity undertaken in isolation from other workers. Home working, working alone in an office, work travel and working at remote locations, such as home visits, could all constitute lone working.
One-to-one contact with individuals (e.g. pastoral care) should be properly planned, its risks considered and recorded effectively. It is essential to acknowledge appropriate physical, sexual, emotional and psychological boundaries. Inappropriate touching or gestures of affection are to be avoided. Consider your physical environment if you find yourself alone with an individual.
Planning lone working
- Is lone working necessary? Confidentiality can be assured with other people within reach.
- If there are casual callers, take precautions before opening the door.
- Who will be involved? Who else should know about it?
- When and where will it take place? Avoid making arrangements that could be misinterpreted.
- Is there a risk of violence? A good working definition of violence is: Any behaviour which produces damaging or hurtful effects, physically or mentally, on people.
- Are there any increased risks to the worker?
- Are there any known medical or other factors which could make either party more vulnerable? Some medical conditions can lead to disinhibition.
Lone working should be planned in advance and noted in an appropriate diary or other record. Where possible it should be notified to an appropriate person. (This is not necessary when work is done at home and does not involve face-to-face contact with other people.) Some of the people the lone worker is at risk of meeting are those who, through medical reasons or substance abuse, are liable to mood swings leading to physical violence. It is recommended good practice to encourage the person you are meeting to enter a room first and for the lone worker to seat themselves closest to the door. Should the situation lead to risk of violence, the lone worker then has a higher chance of withdrawing safely. The lone worker must have access to a landline phone or carry a mobile phone and be accustomed to use it. Supervisors of home visitors (e.g. Eucharistic Ministers) should occasionally visit, accompany or observe lone workers. Automatic warning devices (e.g. personal attack alarms) can be obtained for use in risky places or activities. It may be appropriate for lone workers to be asked to check in once they have completed their task or have safely reached their home following it.
It is recommended good practice that a risk assessment be completed and control measures identified for lone working. Chaplaincies running pastoral visiting schemes should undertake such an assessment. (Please see the Model Lone Working Risk Assessment.)