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Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 23 Sep 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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[Add a Comment]
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
Brie - Your Question:
So I work at an adult store where I sell porn, lingerie, sex toys and other fun items. My individual store has 5 employees 1 GM 1 Assistant manager, 2 shift managers (thats me) and 2 assocuates. but the company has a couple hundred employees. I'm not always alone but sometimes I'll just be scheduled by myself I am a 24 year old girl. I also have seizures and severe social anxiety. I have made my employer aware of this situation and I am still scheduled alone. Not even just me but other girls on the staff too. We are open from 9am to midnight on weekends. Usually you will be alone during the day. Tomorrow I am supposed to be alone for 6 hours at night. We had a break in about 3 weeks ago that was never addressed. They just put a picture over the hole where the robbers got in. And then just moved the glass back in place at the other break in spot. They also didn't fix the office so if there is an emergency I cannot lock myself in anywhere. No risk assessment was completed by my employer and due to being short staffed no-one can work with me tomorrow. I'm just curious about my rights. I do not feel safe at my work.

Our Response:
There is no specific legislation about working alone as the above guide states. You should speak to your employer about this. Please see the section "Employee Concerns" in the above article.
SafeWorkers - 25-Sep-17 @ 12:09 PM
So I work at an adult store where I sell porn, lingerie, sex toys and other fun items. My individual store has 5 employees 1 GM 1 Assistant manager, 2 shift managers (thats me) and 2 assocuates. but thecompany has a couple hundred employees. I'm not always alone but sometimes I'll just be scheduled by myself I am a 24 year old girl. I also have seizures and severe social anxiety. I have made my employer aware of this situation and I am still scheduled alone. Not even just me but other girls on the staff too. We are open from 9am to midnight on weekends. Usually you will be alone during the day. Tomorrow I am supposed to be alone for 6 hours at night. We had a break in about 3 weeks ago that was never addressed. They just put a picture over the hole where the robbers got in. And then just moved the glass back in place at the other break in spot. They also didn't fix the office so if there is an emergency I cannot lock myself in anywhere. No risk assessment was completed by my employer and due to being short staffed no-one can work with me tomorrow. I'm just curious about my rights. I do not feel safe at my work.
Brie - 23-Sep-17 @ 7:06 PM
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
Agnes - 22-Sep-17 @ 2:12 PM
mouse- Your Question:
HiI have a job cleaning around a large indoor pool with sun loungers chairs I am alone at night and I lock myself in for safe. With some many potential slip hazards and water. Should I be doing this job alone? Also clean hot room Nd sauna alone. Hotel close by but no checks

Our Response:
You could try speaking to your employer and asking that someone from the hotel checks on you from time to time?
SafeWorkers - 19-Sep-17 @ 2:07 PM
hi I have a job cleaning around a large indoor pool with sun loungers chairs I am alone at night and I lock myself in for safe. With some many potential slip hazards and water. Should I be doing this job alone? Also clean hot room Nd sauna alone. Hotel close by but no checks
mouse - 18-Sep-17 @ 12:20 PM
I was in a leisure centre in the middle of a quiet industrial estate in a very run down area. It was recently broken into and after watching the footage of the break in it has left me quite shook and frightened to be there on my own which I am a lot, I am a young female and I have raised my concerns to my employee which falls on deaf ears. Do I have any rights in this instance to refuse to work alone?
Chloe Johnson - 6-Sep-17 @ 11:17 PM
AZ - Your Question:
Working in a health food shop 08.45-17.30 with no CCTV, the shop gets very busy and stocks many expensive items, and I often experience shoplifters. My main issue is have my lunch break, which also gives me the chance to use the toilet and do a cash pick-up on the tills to prevent theft. Previously I've close the shop whilst I have some kind off lunch break, however management at work expressed issues with this and off course customer didn't understand and there also angry due to the inconvenience. Work have made me feel under pressure not to do so again in future. Surely I'm entitled to close to the shop for my lunch break? I don't understand how it's a reasonable request for me to work all day in a very busy shop without any break throughout the working day.

Our Response:
Yes workers employed for more than 6 hours are entitled to a minimum 20 minute break which must be taken in one go somewhere in the middle of the day (not at the beginning or end) and workers must be allowed to take the break away from their desk or workstation (ie away from where they actually work). Make a formal complaint to you employer. If you're not happy with the solution they offer, contact ACAS.
SafeWorkers - 6-Sep-17 @ 2:19 PM
monty - Your Question:
I work in a care home at night for eight residents with learning disabilities. I work alone for 8 hours overnight whilst one person sleeps in. Now minimal wage has come in force for people that sleep in , I am now on the same hourly rate. Sleep I , and wake night support are both on £7.50 , nothing has been said or is intended to increase the hourly rate for the support worker. I am so unhappy about this. What can I do.

Our Response:
Make a complaint to your employer first of all.
SafeWorkers - 5-Sep-17 @ 12:00 PM
PAJ- Your Question:
Hi. I work in a steelworks at night alone. For 8hrs between 6pm-2am. I run 4 bandsaws. Sawing up to 500mm dia steel. I also have to use a counterbalance fork lift truck. And a pendant crane. With chains and magnet. Is this allowed? Surely not. 2 other guys are stationed in heat treatment. The other side of the company. Also 2 security guards watching on cctv. But. There are blind spots where they can't observe me. This can't be ok.

Our Response:
Please see the information in the above article, if the employer has carried out a risk assessment and you're not happy with the safety measures in place, raise it with your employer.
SafeWorkers - 5-Sep-17 @ 11:07 AM
Working in a health food shop 08.45-17.30 with no CCTV, the shop gets very busy and stocks many expensive items, and I often experience shoplifters. My main issue is have my lunch break, which also gives me the chance to use the toilet and do a cash pick-up on the tills to prevent theft. Previously I've close the shop whilst I have some kind off lunch break, however management at work expressed issues with this and off course customer didn't understand and there also angry due to the inconvenience. Work have made me feel under pressure not to do so again in future. Surely I'm entitled to close to the shop for my lunch break? I don't understand how it's a reasonable request for me to work all day in a very busy shop without any break throughout the working day.
AZ - 4-Sep-17 @ 9:21 PM
I'm achef and Iwork alone in a kitchen on a MondayI'm worried that I could do myself some damage also only 1 person behind the bar
scruffy - 4-Sep-17 @ 11:59 AM
I work in a care home at night for eight residents with learning disabilities . I work alone for 8 hours overnight whilst one person sleeps in . Now minimal wage has come in force for people that sleep in , I am now on the same hourly rate . Sleep I , and wake night support are both on £7.50 , nothing has been said or is intended to increase the hourly rate for the support worker . I am so unhappy about this. What can I do.
monty - 3-Sep-17 @ 1:49 PM
Hi. I work in a steelworks at night alone. For 8hrs between 6pm-2am. I run 4 bandsaws. Sawing up to 500mm dia steel. I also have to use a counterbalance fork lift truck. And a pendant crane. With chains and magnet. Is this allowed? Surely not. 2 other guys are stationed in heat treatment. The other side of the company. Also 2 security guards watching on cctv. But. There are blind spots where they can't observe me. This can't be ok.
PAJ - 2-Sep-17 @ 6:17 PM
Hi I work Alone for 12 hours a night in large theme park which is approx. I 9 1/2 acres is the a is this allowed as the risk of forced entry are vast as I'm not always I want the office monitoring cctv
Glen - 23-Aug-17 @ 9:48 AM
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
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