With over 6 million lone workers in the UK, it is more important than ever that employers establish a healthy and safe working environment for their employees. It may often be safe for workers to work alone however, the law requires employers to take risks into consideration before people are allowed to do so.

The Healthy and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone working as ‘those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision’. However, Croner’s Health and Safety describes lone workers as ‘a worker whose activities involve a large percentage of their working time operating in situations without the benefit of interaction with other workers or without supervision’, which is often the definition that trade unions prefer when describing these employees.

Lone workers come from various employment sectors. They can include maintenance workers, librarians, planning officers, social workers and health visitors, taxi and transport drivers, farm workers and delivery and postal workers. This list is not exhaustive, and lone working does not necessarily mean that the person has to be working in complete isolation all the time.

As a result, it is essential that the risks of lone working are thoroughly considered and that risk assessments are carried out.

  • Accidents or emergencies arise as a result of employees’ work and the lack of immediate access to first aid equipment or assistance
  • Fire
  • Inadequate provision of rest, hygiene and welfare facilities
  • Violence and abuse from members of the public
  • Theft
  • Intruders
  • Manual handling incidents
  • Sudden illness

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers in the public sector have legal duties to assess all risks to health and safety, including the risk of lone working. To address the problems of lone working a risk assessment must be carried out. Risk assessment is a process of identifying what hazards exist in the workplace and how likely it is that they will cause harm to employees and others. It is the first step in deciding what prevention or control measures employers need to take to protect their employees from harm. Where there are more than five employees the risk assessment must be kept as a permanent record.

For further information on employers’ legal obligations, please visit our legislation page.