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Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 15 Aug 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Work Alone Law Safety Manager

We're often asked the general question: Is it legal to work alone? It is not against the law to work alone, and in many cases it is perfectly safe to do so (for example a self-employed architect may work by themselves from a home-office). The law does however require employers to ensure that their employees are 'reasonably' safe. This means that employers must consider the health and safety risks not only of the job being carried out, but any risks caused by the employee working alone.

I work for a hotel with 140 rooms as a night manager.
Is it legal for me to work on my own for 8 hours at night with no duty manager or any other authoritative person to report to?

Employer's responsibility - An employer's responsibility to ensure that an employee is reasonably safe, cannot be transferred or delegated to another person (including the employee themselves).
Employee's responsibility - Employees do also however, have a responsibility for their own safety and to co-operate with their employers in meeting their legal obligations. (For example if your employer sets out a procedure to follow to minimise any risks, you are expected to follow this).

Risk Assessments

Employers who have five or more workers must not only carry out risk assessments, but also record any significant findings and list the control measures put in place to manage any significant risks identified.

In some industries, there are industry-specific restrictions on tasks which may be carried out by a lone worker. These include transporting explosives and fumigation work. Your employer should be aware of any industry-specific restrictions.

Specific Individuals

I work in a school building with 3 floors as a housekeeper.

I have labyrinthitis, should I be working in this building on my own? It's very hot and I regularly have dizzy spells after a couple of hours work.

Your employee will usually have done a general risk assessment for the role you are employed to carry out. However they must also consider the specific employee hired for that role and adapt their risk assessment.

Employees who may need special adjustments to manage any additional risk cause include:

  • Pregnant workers
  • Young workers (under 18 years old)
  • Disabled workers
  • Female workers (in some roles - note that being a woman in itself is not a special condition)

Employers do need to check that their employees have no medical conditions that make them unsuitable for working alone. They may need to seek medical advice in this regard in some cases.

Remember that you also have a duty to tell your employer about any medical conditions that may affect your work; they won't necessarily know there is a problem unless you tell them! However if the working conditions are reasonable and you are unable to carry out the job due to a medical condition, you may need to consider if you would be best suited in another role; employers only need to make reasonable adaptations.

Supervision

I work in an amusement arcade for 9 hours a day as a lone worker. Due to the amount of money kept on the premises and the nature of the business, there is always potential for me to be in danger.

Generally, I should receive one phone call a day although this does not always occur. The only way I have of contacting anybody is the pay phone on the premises. Are my employers breaking any laws and what rights do I have?

Obviously lone workers cannot be constantly supervised. However they do still need some supervision. The level of supervision required, will depend upon the work being carried out and the risk determined by your employer; the greater the risk, the greater the level of supervision that will be required.

In some cases this will be regular "check-ins" with a manager, whilst in other roles, this might simply be periodic site visits by a manager. The only requirement is that the procedure in place ensures that you are safe.

In the case of large amounts of money on the premises, a "check-in" phone call may not be deemed necessary to ensure safety and so no law is being broken if this is not carried out. If a robbery / attempted robbery does occur, you should in the first instance always call the police (which is free from a pay phone). You can then actively contact your employer to report the problem once you are safe.

Emergencies

I work alone and I am away from reception most of the night. I have had the odd minor accident. I am afraid to take this up with the general manager as I am not sure about my employment rights.
Procedures should be in place for lone workers to allow them to respond correctly to emergencies. In many cases, this will involve some sort of training as to the best practice in identifiable emergency situations (e.g. a bomb threat / a fire / a gas leak / discovery of a break in upon attending the premises)

Employees should have access to first-aid equipment, and mobile workers should carry a small first-aid kit suitable for treating minor injuries. Risk assessment may also indicate the lone employees be given first aid training.

Some employers will have in place systems to trigger emergency alarms (for example silent alarms, emergency personal buzzers, or electronic inactivity systems). However there is no specific legal requirement to do so.

Ways to Reduce the Risk of Lone Working

I am a female and work nights 22.30 to 08.30 in the community on my own. This entails visiting patients throughout the night in my own car. What safety measures should my employer have in place?
Employers may use many different methods to reduce any risks caused by lone working and ensure that their employees are reasonably safe. These include:

1. Training

Many employers will use training to discuss emergency procedures. They may also provide additional training to address particular concerns such a money handling or off-site visits. This may include a requirement to lock doors before counting cash and keep all cash in a safe. It may also include a requirement to "check-in" with a 24hr reception or log your visits in some way.

2. Personal Monitored Alarms

These connect into your phone line (even if you are not at home) and works like a two-way radio with a 24/7 call centre (research further at www.callsafe.org). However there is a cost for these (usually about £180 per year).

3. Personal Attack Alarm

These have a pin which when pulled out emits a loud noise. These were designed typically for women out at night and can scare off any personal attacker and also alert other members of the public. These can be bought cheaply online and in shops (some for less than £5) and so employees may chose to buy their own to attach to a key ring or belt in any event.

4. 24 Hour Reception / "Buddy System"

Some larger employees will have a 24 hour reception with which employees can "check in", to monitor off-site movements. Alternatively, the same can be achieved with a "buddy system". This involves calling or texting another employee to let them know the address you are attending and how long you expect to be there. You then text them again when you safely leave. If they do not hear back from you within a short period after you should have left an off-site location, they can then try to get in touch with you. If they cannot contact you, they then come to the location, or call the police to report a potential situation.

Employee Concerns

Your employer should periodically discuss health and safety issues with you. Some employees may choose to discuss any risks with employees so that they have an involvement in any risk management procedures put in place. Some employers will also be happy to provide employees with their mobile phone number for out-of-hours emergencies.

I work alone. There is no a signal on my mobile when I am at work, and there is no land line. Is this safe?

There is no requirement for your employer to provide you with mobile phone signal or a landline phone. The need for this will depend on any potential risks identified. If the likelihood of any serious accident is unlikely (for example no more likely that if you were at home), then there may be no need for phone signal inside the building.

If you have any concerns about your health and safety, you should always raise these with your line manager or employer. They can then assess any risks and discuss with you how these can be reduced.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Amy - Your Question:
I employe a Saturday girl in my small clothing shop. She is 17 years old. Can I leave her in the shop on her own? I have cctv and back exit in place.

Our Response:
In general, the rules state that:
"You are only allowed to do the work above under the following circumstances:
where it is necessary for your training, and
where an experienced person is supervising you, and
where any risk is reduced to the lowest level that is reasonable.
These rules do not apply if you are doing short term or occasional work in a family business or in a private household, and this is not considered to be harmful to you".
SafeWorkers - 17-Aug-17 @ 11:39 AM
I employe a Saturday girl in my small clothing shop. She is 17 years old. Can I leave her in the shop on her own? I have cctv and back exit in place.
Amy - 15-Aug-17 @ 2:20 PM
Dave - Your Question:
I work alone four days a week in a bus garage. I have to fuel, oil, water, wash and sweep inside 20 buses each night. Am I by law allowed to do this alone. The other three nights of the week there is four of us.Thanks

Our Response:
Please see the above article for an answer to your question.
SafeWorkers - 10-Aug-17 @ 12:23 PM
I work alone four days a week in a bus garage. I have to fuel, oil, water, wash and sweep inside 20 buses each night. Am I by law allowed to do this alone. The other three nights of the week there is four of us. Thanks
Dave - 9-Aug-17 @ 5:24 PM
ANGEL - Your Question:
I am a lady massage therapist. I am the only person who works alone in a building on a Saturday day. I massage complete strangers and feel very unsafe in the building because it's very obvious to the client that I am alone and they even comment saying are you alone? Its especially dangerous when I have men booked in to massage whom I have never met before. Is it against the law because of the risks of my job to work alone as a massage therapist?

Our Response:
Please see the above article. There are no specific laws relating to this. If you are unhappy the guide above tells you what you can do.
SafeWorkers - 8-Aug-17 @ 12:30 PM
Jim leg - Your Question:
I am a type 1 diabetic and work in engineering and been asked to go out side in a assembly shop on my own the director said some one would come and see me every hour the first day they did but since then its been very infrequent I do not have hypos has I am well controlled but what is the law concerning type 1 diabetics working on there own

Our Response:
There are no specific laws about working alone. Your employer's risk assessment and precautions that are in place as a result of this are usually sufficient. If you're not happy follow the steps recommended in the above article.
SafeWorkers - 8-Aug-17 @ 10:28 AM
Binky - Your Question:
I work alone all day in a charity shop, in order to go to the toilet I have to unlock two doors & re-lock afterwards, the area is quite dodgy as their are a lot of drug addicts & alcoholic's nearby. I don't feel very safe & my employer seems to think this is ok, what do you think?

Our Response:
We can't give individual opinions as we can't see this for ourselves unfortunately. Please see the advice in the above guide.
SafeWorkers - 7-Aug-17 @ 2:43 PM
I am a lady massage therapist. I am the only person who works alone in a building on a Saturday day. I massage complete strangers and feel very unsafe in the building because it's very obvious to the client that I am alone and they even comment saying are you alone? Its especially dangerous when I have men booked in to massage whom I have never met before. Is it against the law because of the risks of my job to work alone as a massage therapist?
ANGEL - 6-Aug-17 @ 7:17 AM
I am a type 1 diabetic and work in engineering and been asked to go out side in a assembly shop on my own the director said some one would come and see me every hour the first day they did but since then its been very infrequent I do not havehypos has I am well controlled but what is the law concerning type 1 diabetics working on there own
Jim leg - 5-Aug-17 @ 7:58 AM
I work alone all day in a charity shop, in order to go to the toilet I have to unlock two doors & re-lock afterwards, the area is quite dodgy as their are a lot of drug addicts & alcoholic's nearby. I don't feel very safe & my employer seems to think this is ok, what do you think?
Binky - 4-Aug-17 @ 6:48 PM
I have a 19 year old appreticent who when other staff are working off site is left in the hair salon alone. We are always contactable by phone. Is this legal?
Bob - 29-Jul-17 @ 1:33 PM
Breda- Your Question:
I work for a small town council and am expected to respond to all secuirity alarms at the sports pavilions, which are in the middle of playing fields, and not lit. I am really concerned especially at night, they wont pay for extra lighting. I am a woman, with a physical disability and I feel compromised - I also have to open up and lock up in the dark on my own, and there have been occasions where drunk people try and get in the building when I am locking up and I am left to deal with them on my own. Is this acceptable?

Our Response:
Follow the advice in the article, we can say whether specific examples are "acceptable" or not unfortunately as we are not familiar with your area etc
SafeWorkers - 27-Jul-17 @ 1:55 PM
I work for a small town council and am expected to respond to all secuirity alarms at the sports pavilions, which are in the middle of playing fields, and not lit. I am really concerned especially at night, they wont pay for extra lighting. I am a woman, with a physical disability and I feel compromised - I also have to open up and lock up in the dark on my own, and there have been occasions where drunk people try and get in the building when I am locking up and I am left to deal with them on my own. Is this acceptable?
Breda - 24-Jul-17 @ 1:47 PM
Jack - Your Question:
Looking to see if this is legal. Recently some of the overnight weork has moved to an officer in Sydney, 33rd floor. Everything was run overnight from a different office in a different state, they had a minimum 3/4 people in although the overnight work I now do was done by 1/2 people, they always had other people in office.I have access to phones/messenger to this office but it is intertstate. During the day there are around 150 people in the same office. Usually means I am on my own from 11pm until 630pm.I am 41, no health issues and the work is computer work, the issue is being very anti social, possibly leading to depression due to having no human contact for 7hrs a night possibly. What if I went away from my desk, had a heart attack.noone would know and it could be an hour/3hrs before anyone realises.

Our Response:
It sounds as though you're not in the UK, so your country's laws might be different. Here there are no specific laws about working alone, but your employer does have a duty of care towards you. Make a formal representation about your concerns to your employer and ask to see what precautions are in place should the worst happen.
SafeWorkers - 29-Jun-17 @ 11:34 AM
Looking to see if this is legal. Recently some of the overnight weork has moved to an officer in Sydney, 33rd floor. Everything was run overnight from a different office in a different state, they had a minimum 3/4 people in although the overnight work I now do was done by 1/2 people, they always had other people in office. I have access to phones/messenger to this office but it is intertstate. During the day there are around 150 people in the same office. Usually means I am on my own from 11pm until 630pm. I am 41, no health issues and the work is computer work, the issue is being very anti social, possibly leading to depression due to having no human contact for 7hrs a night possibly. What if I went away from my desk, had a heart attack...noone would know and it could be an hour/3hrs before anyone realises.
Jack - 28-Jun-17 @ 5:53 AM
Smoswod - Your Question:
I work for a car rental company on the outskirts of an airport, far from the main terminal, the car rental centre is open 24 hrs per day however all the other companies close at midnight or 1am. I am often left on my own in the building until 3 or 4 am. I can have hundreds of car keys at one time just behind the counter with no security present, I am female and feel this is an unsafe environment particularly for a lone female worker, I work for a big company who obviously feel this is acceptable however I feel extremely vulnerable, anyone could walk in the door at any time. I am scared to approach the subject with my boss as they could easily replace me with a guy who is quite happy to cover the shift, I am the only female doing these shifts, it is part of my contract but I feel so uncomfortable with it, any advice would be appreciated

Our Response:
Have you discussed this with your employers? When you say anyone could walk in the door, are the keys locked in a cupboard? Do you have an alarm button or someone who checks on you by phone periodically etc? If you feel the precautions taken are not sufficient, follow the advice in the above article.
SafeWorkers - 26-Jun-17 @ 10:36 AM
Slax - Your Question:
Hi I am part of a night shift crew that is concerned about the safety of the machine we work we have constantly asked for things to be made safe but the only answer we get is we've always done it like that. We have tyred to explain that we feel that it is very dangerous and people have already had accidents. We feel the only way forward is to report it to the HSE or refuse to operate the machine if we do this can they suspend us

Our Response:
Your employer would be unreasonable to suspend you for reporting this to the HSE. If you feel you have a genuine reason for concern and your employer is not taking the necessary action, you can refuse to work while it investigated/put right. Explain your reasons to your employer and offer to do different work if it's available until the machine is checked. Let your employer know that you will ask the HSE to do an inspection if they don't do so themselves.
SafeWorkers - 26-Jun-17 @ 10:28 AM
I work for a car rental company on the outskirts of an airport, far from the main terminal, the car rental centre is open 24 hrs per day however all the other companies close at midnight or 1am. I am often left on my own in the building until 3 or 4 am. I can have hundreds of car keys at one time just behind the counter with no security present, I am female and feel this is an unsafe environment particularly for a lone female worker, I work for a big company who obviously feel this is acceptable however I feel extremely vulnerable, anyone could walk in the door at any time.... I am scared to approach the subject with my boss as they could easily replace me with a guy who is quite happy to cover the shift, I am the only female doing these shifts, it is part of my contract but I feel so uncomfortable with it, any advice would be appreciated
Smoswod - 23-Jun-17 @ 4:04 AM
Hi I am part of a night shift crew that is concerned about the safety of the machine we work we have constantly asked for things to be made safe but the only answer we get is we've always done it like that. We have tyred to explain that we feel that it is very dangerous and people have already had accidents. We feel the only way forward is to report it to the HSE or refuse to operate the machine if we do this can they suspend us
Slax - 23-Jun-17 @ 4:02 AM
Hi I work in retail I have bean left to do a five hours shift on my own to run 4 departments is this agenst the law thay have dun this for 4 days so far
Jo - 20-Jun-17 @ 10:09 PM
hare219 - Your Question:
I work at a bookmakers, and as part of my weekly shifts, I do one 12 hour managing shift every week which means I am entitled to a 1 hour break. Normally this is covered as I have a cashier in from 1 till 6, which means I can go to the bank with any excess monies, empty the gaming machines safely, and take my break. However, I have just been informed that next week I will not have a cashier, and that someone will "pop in" so I can take my break. However, this means I will not be able to use the toilet while I am on my own, I won't know when someone will arrive to relieve me. As a young female in a shop that has been robbed three times in the last year I do not feel safe being on my own for so long, not knowing when someone will arrive. Can you give me any advice?

Our Response:
There are no laws as such about lone working but your employer does have a duty of care to you as an employee. We hope all the information is provided in the above article about what to do if you have concerns.
SafeWorkers - 19-Jun-17 @ 11:58 AM
Sey - Your Question:
I work in a car part suppliers warehouse but there trying to change it to where I have to work on my own but I think it's wrong as out of 20 blokes I'll be the only one ,So was just wondering if I can be forced into it

Our Response:
If the nature of your job hasn't changed (from that in your contract), then there's not much you can do about this. Check the details in the above article about your employer's risk assessment etc.
SafeWorkers - 19-Jun-17 @ 11:01 AM
Jonjon - Your Question:
What does my employer have to do after I've told them I feel bullied and victimised

Our Response:
There is no specific law to deal with bullying but all employers have a Duty of Care towards staff and their wellbeing. Bullying is also a central part of harassment and discrimination legislation. Please see our guide here for more information about what you can do.
SafeWorkers - 15-Jun-17 @ 2:06 PM
I work at a bookmakers, and as part of my weekly shifts, I do one 12 hour managing shift every week which means I am entitled to a 1 hour break. Normally this is covered as I have a cashier in from 1 till 6, which means I can go to the bank with any excess monies, empty the gaming machines safely, and take my break. However, I have just been informed that next week I will not have a cashier, and that someone will "pop in" so I can take my break. However, this means I will not be able to use the toilet while I am on my own, I won't know when someone will arrive to relieve me. As a young female in a shop that has been robbed three times in the last year I do not feel safe being on my own for so long, not knowing when someone will arrive. Can you give me any advice?
hare219 - 15-Jun-17 @ 11:45 AM
I work in a car part suppliers warehouse but there trying to change it to where I have to work on my own but I think it's wrong as out of 20 blokes I'll be the only one ,So was just wondering if i can be forced into it
Sey - 15-Jun-17 @ 10:48 AM
What does my employer have to do after I've told them I feel bullied and victimised
Jonjon - 12-Jun-17 @ 6:52 PM
Angie - Your Question:
My friends daughter is expected to open a store at 6 am she is 16. Is this legal? The company say they have a risk assessment but its generic. It's not specific and at 16 surely you are classed as a young worker?

Our Response:
There are certain safety laws that apply to young workers (age 16 -18). The rules say that you cannot do the following without supervision:
work which you are not physically or mentally capable of doing
work which brings you into contact with chemical agents, toxic material or radiation
work which involves a health risk because of extreme cold, heat or vibration.
If your friend's daughter feels her safety is being compromised, she should contact ACAS for individual advice.
SafeWorkers - 6-Jun-17 @ 2:22 PM
My friends daughter is expected to open a store at 6 am she is 16. Is this legal? The company say they have a risk assessment but its generic. It's not specific and at 16 surely you are classed as a young worker?
Angie - 4-Jun-17 @ 10:52 AM
I work in a book makers which can get really busy,we work from 6pm till 10pm alone but its not easy to access the toilet, and there is constantly people in the shop so unable to lock the door to go to the toilet.Is there anything about this? As i suffer from UTI's regularly due to not being able to go.
Amphib - 30-May-17 @ 5:05 PM
Trell - Your Question:
I am a lone worker in a homeless Hostel that has 50 male residents. I work 14hr waking nights. Majority of the residents have some form of substance misuse issues and it has the possibility of turning ugly on any shift that I work. I have not received any training during the time I have worked there, whether it's regarding health and safety especially around the possibility of one of the residents overdoseing on whatever substance they may have used at the time, as I said earlier it is varied. Please advise. Thank you ??

Our Response:
We're not sure what advice you need. We hope the above article is clear on what you can do if you are not happy working alone in this environment. There are no laws about lone working as such, as the article explains. If you address any concerns with your employer.
SafeWorkers - 24-May-17 @ 11:38 AM
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