Home > Workplace Safety > Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 16 Feb 2018 | 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]
Cread12 - Your Question:
I work in a bar in a public house and work from 5 till half 1 in the morning alone. There is no other staff members on the premises for the whole duration and was wondering what kind of safety measures my employer should have in place

Our Response:
These are detailed in the above article.
SafeWorkers - 20-Feb-18 @ 1:45 PM
I work in a bar in a public house and work from 5 till half 1 in the morning alone . There is no other staff members on the premises for the whole duration and was wondering what kind of safety measures my employer should have in place
Cread12 - 16-Feb-18 @ 9:07 AM
I SUPPORT2 BOYS IN THETE OWN HOME IS THIS LEGAL 1 SUPPORT WORKER LOOKING AFTER 2 CLIENTS IN THEREOWN HOME.
Jimbo - 6-Feb-18 @ 8:12 PM
Roxy - Your Question:
Hey! I work in a food environment with shifts up to 10 hours. 7 of these hoirs are spent working alone. We are in a train station and do not have our own toilet so we have to lock up store with a back in 5 minutes sign and go onto the platform. Our store has a new owner who is now saying we arent allowed to do this and we should "prepare" by arriving to our shift early and going to the toilet. I reminded him that this is ridiculous as the time spent alone is a long time not to go to the toilet! This would surely mean we couldnt eat or drink anything just in case we would then need to relieve ourselves! Surely this is ridiculously illegal?! Side note: I suffer from stomach issues which all my work colleagues are aware of!

Our Response:
Make a formal complaint via your employer's written procedures. There's nothing in law directly relating to actual toilet breaks but your employer does have a duty of care for your welfare. If you work longer than 6 hours, the law says you must take a break of a minimum 20 minutes away from your "workstation" and this break must not be at either end of your shift, so make sure you are receiving this break and that you are able to use the toilet during this time.
SafeWorkers - 30-Jan-18 @ 11:09 AM
Hey! I work in a food environment with shifts up to 10 hours. 7 of these hoirs are spent working alone. We are in a train station and do not have our own toilet so we have to lock up store with a back in 5 minutes sign and go onto the platform. Our store has a new owner who is now saying we arent allowed to do this and we should "prepare" by arriving to our shift early and going to the toilet. I reminded him that this is ridiculous as the time spent alone is a long time not to go to the toilet! This would surely mean we couldnt eat or drink anything just in case we would then need to relieve ourselves! Surely this is ridiculously illegal?! Side note: i suffer from stomach issues which all my work colleagues are aware of!
Roxy - 28-Jan-18 @ 10:04 AM
Jackie - Your Question:
Hi.I am 16 and working part time in a food outlet. I am expected to work till 9pm by myself and lock up the shop including putting money in safe. Is it legal?

Our Response:
Your employer should have undertaken an assessment of possible risks to your health and safety -pay particular attention to your age, lack of experience, and other things that could be a risk to your health and safety. If you're not happy with any risk reduction measures in place raise a complaint with your employer. Please seethe above article for details of the next steps to take.
SafeWorkers - 15-Jan-18 @ 2:36 PM
Hi.I am 16 and working part time in a food outlet. I am expected to work till 9pm by myself and lock up the shop including putting money in safe. Is it legal?
Jackie - 12-Jan-18 @ 4:43 PM
I won't be able to get another job as I lost my ID card during robbery. Employer are aware that I got to wait until end of February to get new one from embassy. I also do not agree with the reason I was dissmissed for.
dominicahaa12 - 3-Jan-18 @ 12:35 PM
dominicahaa12 - Your Question:
I was working alone on probation when an armed robbery happened at filling station. As a result of the robbery I lost my handbag and wallet (only proof of my identity was in the wallet at time), mobile phones and keys to number of addresses. Police was at the scene, everything was reported. I was dissmissed five weeks after incident without any compensation for personal losses without any process. I was just asked not to come for my next shift by shop manager. She said that in her opinion my performance wasn't good. I never been told before that I was doing anything wrong. After 3 weeks I still didn't receive any correspondence from the employer (such as P45 or letter about dismissal). Can you please advise me what to do?

Our Response:
You could take action t recover any losses from the burglary via the courts. Your employer should give you your P45 but if you get another job HMRC will contact your previous employer for the p45 anyway. If you have issues about the way they employer handled the dismissal/followed incorrect procedures, call ACAS with a viewto taking it to a tribunal.
SafeWorkers - 3-Jan-18 @ 11:57 AM
I was working alone on probation when an armed robbery happened at filling station. As a result of the robbery I lost my handbag and wallet (only proof of my identity was in the wallet at time), mobile phones and keys to number of addresses. Police was at the scene, everything was reported. I was dissmissed five weeks after incident without any compensation for personal losses without any process. I was just asked not to come for my next shift by shop manager. She said that in her opinion my performance wasn't good. I never been told before that I was doing anything wrong. After 3 weeks I still didn't receive any correspondence from the employer (such as P45 or letter about dismissal). Can you please advise me what to do?
dominicahaa12 - 2-Jan-18 @ 7:32 PM
Hi, I'm currently at my job now as a Receptionist 9am-5pm. There is absolutely no one in the building or anyone in any of the buildings around me. Is this safe? What happens if I fall over, choke, pass out, have a fit?! theirs no one here to help me i'm kind of concerned I've recently come out of hospital due to being unconscious and not being well. What can i do?
AJ - 27-Dec-17 @ 9:42 AM
Robert - Your Question:
I work in a arcade sometimes 7 hours are longer. I smoke but know don't get smoke breaks but surely I am entitled to a break with in the hours. Know all jobs are different but thought everyone was still aloud a break period. I work alone most times

Our Response:
If you work for more than 6 hours, you are entitled to a minimum break of 20 minutes which shouldn't be taken at the start or end of the day (your employer does not have to pay you for this break).
SafeWorkers - 15-Dec-17 @ 3:48 PM
I work in a arcade sometimes 7 hours are longer . I smoke but know don't get smoke breaks but surely I am entitled to a break with in the hours . Know all jobs are different but thought everyone was still aloud a break period . I work alone most times
Robert - 13-Dec-17 @ 3:44 PM
I have to close and lock up a large warehouse on my own I am a 60 year old female is this legal
Jancie - 6-Dec-17 @ 4:42 PM
Waldorf - Your Question:
Hi I am working in a coldstore over the Christmas period and will be working alone for eight hours a day should I not have a first aider on site

Our Response:
This is the advice given by the British Frozen Food Federation in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive:
Your employer is required to look after your health, safety and welfare. For a cold store environment, your employer must provide:
Suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) – selection of PPE should take account of the temperature, length of exposure, type of operation and personal preference
A heated rest room. Suitable and sufficient breaks must be taken in a warm area. The length of time you are required to work in the cold is dependent on several factors including the type of work you are doing, air temperature, the risk of wind chill and the type of clothing you are wearing.
Breaks should be arranged based on a comprehensive risk assessment.
Adequate supervision and suitable First Aid facilities
A means of escape following entrapment (accidental lock in) within the cold store
SafeWorkers - 4-Dec-17 @ 3:26 PM
Hi i am working in a coldstore over the Christmas period and will be working alone for eight hours a day should i not have a first aider on site
Waldorf - 4-Dec-17 @ 6:37 AM
hi l am 20 and work alone cleaning office ,l feel very unsafe work with it been dark,The job hasnow caused me depression l have now decided to leave the job immediately MY boss has told me he is taking court action against me, i ve only been here 3 months what can l do and can he take action
disey - 1-Dec-17 @ 8:05 AM
Concerned parent - Your Question:
Can a 17 year old work in a resturant by himself closing

Our Response:
Yes please see the above guide for information.
SafeWorkers - 14-Nov-17 @ 10:27 AM
Can a 17 year old work in a resturant by himself closing
Concerned parent - 12-Nov-17 @ 2:47 AM
Hi, I'm a 28 year old woman and I currently work for Lidl during the night shift. A few weeks ago I arrived for my shift and my colleague didn't turn up, I was made to stay by myself from 22:30-5:00 (I felt I couldn't say no) during this time we have male delivery drivers arrive who have access to the store without having to be let in, also we have to work pallets of stock that can sometimes be over 6 foot tall and aren't always completely sturdy. If I have someone else there with me I don't have an issue,as if anything goes wrong there is someone to help. There have been other instances where they are trying to get me to work alone but I don't feel comfortable doing this, I don't feel that there is concern for my safety, only getting the job done. What would be the best way to approach this with them? Could there be a legal issue in this instance? As I feel me just saying I don't want to work alone is not being taken seriously. Thank you.
Rose - 7-Nov-17 @ 4:40 PM
Timo79 - Your Question:
I'm working in a shopping centre and my employee says I've got to go on the Ride On Machines and I don't care if I'm not comfortable in them can they force me to go on machines

Our Response:
You've asked this already - it's answered below.
SafeWorkers - 7-Nov-17 @ 2:36 PM
Fi1968 - Your Question:
My daughter is an apprentice hairdresser and she is often left alone in the salon, in some cases for two weeks whilst the owner is away on holiday - this has been happening constantly over the last 4 years - is this safe and legal - she was 17 when she was first left alone.

Our Response:
There are no real laws about being left alone. Your daughter should ask to look at the risk assessment and address any issues she doesn't feel comfortable with. As a young worker (when she was 17) the young workers working hours and breaks would have applied.
SafeWorkers - 7-Nov-17 @ 11:24 AM
I'm working in a shopping centre and my employee says I've got to go on the Ride On Machines and I don't care if I'm not comfortable in them can they force me to go on machines
Timo79 - 6-Nov-17 @ 6:39 PM
Timo79 - Your Question:
I'm working in a shopping centre and my employer says I've got to go on the Ride On Machines and I don't care if I'm not comfortable in them can they force me to go on machines

Our Response:
This will depend on the terms of your contract and your job description, so unfortunately, we can't really help you.
SafeWorkers - 6-Nov-17 @ 3:59 PM
I'm working in a shopping centre and my employer says I've got to go on the Ride On Machines and I don't care if I'm not comfortable in them can they force me to go on machines
Timo79 - 6-Nov-17 @ 3:44 PM
My daughter is an apprentice hairdresser and she is often left alone in the salon, in some cases for two weeks whilst the owner is away on holiday - this has been happening constantly over the last 4 years - is this safe and legal - she was 17 when she was first left alone.
Fi1968 - 1-Nov-17 @ 11:39 AM
freddie - Your Question:
Hi I work in a salt mine and sometimes am down the mine repairing machines that break down on my own wear I drive a landrover to the job I have no first aid kit or training and for every job I do they say I have to do a risk assessment do I have to do that I through that was up to the employer

Our Response:
Sorry there is not really enough information here to comment. Your employer may have a general risk assessment for your role but it may be impractical for them to be onsite whenever you attend an incident where machinery has broken down. Have they given you template risk assessment to complete each time for example?
SafeWorkers - 24-Oct-17 @ 1:05 PM
Hi my brother is 27 years old works as a night warden and looks after 3 holiday parks in his own and 2 parks are close together one is not. Tonight he was at one of the holiday parks in middle of no where his work van broke down he tryed ringing 3 managers no one answered so he had to walk round the park in the dark for a signal to put on facebook for someone to help him lucky my other brother was up and went and got him. Now my brother will get in trouble for putting it on facebook but it was his only means of getting himself some help he has a touch bit it doesnt work what can he do
Mini - 24-Oct-17 @ 7:50 AM
hi I work in a salt mine and sometimes am down the mine repairing machines that break down on my own wear I drive a landroverto the job I have no first aid kit or training and for every job I do they say I have to do a risk assessment do I have to do that I through that was up to the employer
freddie - 22-Oct-17 @ 2:02 AM
Agnes - Your Question:
I work at night in a hotel I've had to work many a night on my own with functions and weddings is this safe

Our Response:
Please see the above guide. There is no specific legislation saying you cannot work alone.
SafeWorkers - 25-Sep-17 @ 12:55 PM
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