Lone working – the mental burden – managing health and safety

Kate Donachie, Brodies LLP ,
4 Apr 2022

kateIn this blog, Kate Donachie, Managing Associate, Land and Rural Business at Brodies LLP tackles the subject of employees' mental health, and the problems that can be associated with working alone.

We know that rural work can be physically risky, and that lone working creates particular hazards. However, we are perhaps less conscious of the mental health impact and the duties employers have to protect employees from that harm.

The importance of this problem has been acknowledged by Government, in November last year the Environment and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee launched a wide-ranging inquiry into rural mental health. In Scotland the national Rural Mental Wellbeing forum forms part of the Scottish Government's Mental Health Strategy 2017 -2027.

Lone working brings real challenges for peoples' mental health. Loneliness and isolation are considered key triggers for poor mental health and working remotely from colleagues also poses challenges, both for employers monitoring wellbeing and for employees communicating problems. 

At the end of last year, HSE launched its Working Minds campaign. Specifically targeted at six million workers in small businesses, the campaign calls for a culture change. HSE is asking employers to manage risks to mental health in the same way they would assess and manage risks to physical health.

This can be a difficult concept to grasp, even for those familiar and comfortable with assessing and managing physical risks. However, it shouldn't be overwhelming. The Working Minds campaign is focused on providing practical help to smaller businesses so that they can manage the risk and promote good mental health at work, it provides guidance in simple steps.

An important first step is recognising the importance of good mental health and the impact that work can have. Thereafter, control measures need not be onerous or complicated, checking on employees' wellbeing and providing them with clear and open lines of communication are likely to be part of an effective plan.

Although this is a significant and complex problem, it is positive that it is being publicly discussed that some of the stigma surrounding mental health is being removed.