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Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 15 Jun 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]
Angel - Your Question:
Ive recently been offered a job, working 12 nights.10 hours of which will be alone.I will be the only female in a building on 8 men suffering with mental healtg issues (schizophrenia).Im concerned about the length of time ill be on my own with extremely temperamental and vulnerable men.Is there any legal requirement for lone workers working with vulnerable people?

Our Response:
No there are no legal requirements except that your employer has a duty of care to you and should have made a risk assessment etc. Please see the above article for full information.
SafeWorkers - 15-Jun-18 @ 3:07 PM
Ive recently been offered a job, working 12 nights...10 hours of which will be alone. I will be the only female in a building on 8 men suffering with mental healtg issues (schizophrenia). Im concerned about the length of time ill be on my own with extremely temperamental and vulnerable men. Is there any legal requirement for lone workers working with vulnerable people?
Angel - 15-Jun-18 @ 7:00 AM
Me.W - Your Question:
Hi,I am 30 weeks pregnant and was left to work in the store completely alone from 9am-5pm. I opened and closed alone whilst the other staff enjoyed their bank holiday weekend. In my risk assesment which was carried out at the start of my pregnancy, it was stated that I shouldn't be left alone in the store for long periods of time. I was extremely anxious the whole day but I didn't want to mention that in fear of being sent on maternity leave early. Is this illegal?

Our Response:
Please see our guide to Being Pregnant at Work - the section entitled "Health and Safety Issues" is the main part relevant for you.
SafeWorkers - 6-Jun-18 @ 3:12 PM
Knox12 - Your Question:
Hi, I’m really hoping someone can helping me with this. I work at a place that is 24 hours. I’ve worked here for over a year, I used to work mornings but recently in that past 5 months I have been working overnight. They have me alone working from 10 to 5 am in the morning. I’m expected to finish all my duties of cleaning and stacking all while attempting customers on my own. some nights gets very busy and frustrating especial because this store has kitchen, drinks I have to make and mix, and icecream. So I constantly have to run back and forth. I am 19 and my only concern for calling them out on it is that they would throw back at me that they have seen me smoking in the cameras but honestly this job drove me to to do that it’s so stressful. alive lost so much weight working here even my regular costumers can tell how much I’ve changed. Costumers as well ask me why I’m working alone. This is one of the busiest stores I know they make a lot of money everything is overpriced they should have enough to at least put one more person with me at night. They’ve hired plenty morning and afternoon at least 6-7 people from morning about 4 people for afternoon but one for overnight. Is there some type of legal matter I can go about this?

Our Response:
It's not illegal to work alone. Please read the full guide to find out what to do if you're unhappy/feel unsafe.
SafeWorkers - 5-Jun-18 @ 12:21 PM
me- Your Question:
Hello I work in a plant at night time by myself ( like 2 am in the morning kinda night ) with no fellow workers on premises,, I do have a phone ,, people in other departments , is it safe for me to be going up on a man lift to do work or climb ladders to do work by myself just wondering because I was told by some I shouldn,t be doing that at night by myself , that it was dangerous

Our Response:
We can't comment on specific tasks etc. The guide above explains your rights whenworking alone and what to do if you feel you are subjected to unnecessary risks.
SafeWorkers - 4-Jun-18 @ 2:54 PM
Hi, I’m really hoping someone can helping me with this. I work at a place that is 24 hours. I’ve worked here for over a year, I used to work mornings but recently in that past 5 months I have been working overnight. They have me alone working from 10to 5 am in the morning. I’m expected to finish all my duties of cleaning and stacking all while attempting customers on my own. some nights gets very busy and frustrating especial because this store has kitchen, drinks I have to make and mix, and icecream. So I constantly have to run back and forth. I am 19 and my only concern for calling them out on it is that they would throw back at me that they have seen me smoking in the cameras but honestly this job drove me to to do that it’s so stressful. alive lost so much weight working here even my regular costumers can tell how much I’ve changed. Costumers as well ask me why I’m working alone. This is one of the busiest stores i know they make a lot of money everything is overpriced they should have enough to at least put one more person with me at night. They’ve hired plenty morning and afternoon at least 6-7 people from morning about 4 people for afternoon but one for overnight. Is there some type of legal matter I can go about this?
Knox12 - 4-Jun-18 @ 1:54 PM
hello i work in a plant at night time by myself ( like 2 amin the morning kinda night ) with no fellow workerson premises,, i do have a phone ,, people in other departments , is it safe for me to be going up on a man lift to do workor climb ladders to do work by myself just wondering because i was told by some i shouldn,t be doing thatat nightby myself , that it was dangerous
me - 3-Jun-18 @ 8:54 PM
Hi, I am 30 weeks pregnant and was left to work in the store completely alone from 9am-5pm. I opened and closed alone whilst the other staff enjoyed their bank holiday weekend. In my risk assesment which was carried out at the start of my pregnancy, it was stated that I shouldn't be left alone in the store for long periods of time. I was extremely anxious the whole day but i didn't want to mention that in fear of being sent on maternity leave early. Is this illegal?
Me.W - 2-Jun-18 @ 8:25 AM
Smudge- Your Question:
Hi I work for a small company in one of the office in a building and there are multiple business in the same building, however I am left on my own quite a lot in My office, but also left in the whole building a lot on my own and when I leave lock the premises, which isn’t in my contract or is not my responsibility to check to make sure premises are locked Do I need to have this put in my contract Should it be my responsibility? Should I be left alone without any 1st aid kit checks etc My bosses sometimes never call to see if I am at work etc

Our Response:
Please read the article above, for comprehensive advice. If you are one of a number of companies in the building there should really be a security company which comes to lock up and open up etc. Talk to your employer.
SafeWorkers - 1-Jun-18 @ 3:38 PM
Sta - Your Question:
My daughter is 16, she rents a chair in a saloon, contact sign, but no opening hours on contract, she pays for a Fri and Sat, but shop shuts at 6 on Fri, she's at school untill 4, so can't work Fri. Owner said she would give her keys to lock up on Fri so she could work Fri late, is this allowed as would be on her own, thanks

Our Response:
It's likely that your daughter is actually self-employed, the salon owner is not bounds by the usual things that an employer would be. If the salon doesn't have opening hours that suit your daughter's needs, it's a little unreasonable to except the owner to make changes to allow for that. Your daughter's choice is really either to reduce her own working time or to simply assess the risks and take the necessary precautions to reduce those risks.
SafeWorkers - 1-Jun-18 @ 2:14 PM
Hi I work for a small company in one of the office in a building and there are multiple business in the same building, however I am left on my own quite a lot inMy office, but also left in the whole building a lot on my own and when I leave lock the premises, which isn’t in my contract or is not my responsibility to check to make sure premises are locked Do I need to have this put in my contract Should it be my responsibility? Should I be left alone without any 1st aid kit checks etc My bosses sometimes never call to see if I am at work etc
Smudge - 31-May-18 @ 1:39 PM
My daughter is 16, she rents a chair in a saloon, contact sign, but no opening hours on contract, she pays for a Fri and Sat, but shop shuts at 6 on Fri, she's at school untill 4, so can't work Fri. Owner said she would give her keys to lock up on Fri so she could work Fri late, is this allowed as would be on her own, thanks
Sta - 31-May-18 @ 11:41 AM
I look after 12 oaps in a care home on nights is it illegal
Nikki - 27-May-18 @ 7:04 PM
Milly - Your Question:
I work in a taxi Office and I’m diabetic and the office is now only controlled by one person on shift is this legal please??

Our Response:
There are no laws that prohibit loan working, please read the details in the above article for more information.
SafeWorkers - 15-May-18 @ 11:00 AM
Hi, I work in a gym & do ten hour shifts completely by myself, I’m not health and safety trained & have never been given any training of what to do in the event of a fire, is this okay?
louisea - 12-May-18 @ 1:24 PM
I work in a taxi Office and I’m diabetic and the office is now only controlled by one person on shift is this legal please??
Milly - 11-May-18 @ 11:10 AM
Gayle - Your Question:
Hello. I work at a hospital as a telecommunications operator and security dispatcher for multiple locations within our region. We are a 24 hour operation so I work 8, 9, 10 and 12 hour shifts completely alone with no breaks. Is this legal?

Our Response:
There are no laws that prohibit loan working, please read the details in the above article for more information.
SafeWorkers - 8-May-18 @ 10:13 AM
Hello. I work at a hospital as a telecommunications operator and security dispatcher for multiple locations within our region. We are a 24 hour operation so I work 8, 9, 10 and 12 hour shifts completely alone with no breaks. Is this legal?
Gayle - 5-May-18 @ 2:51 AM
I work nights security on a 1 man site for 12 hours we used to do check calls every hour we have since tupe'd to a new company and for the 1st 17 days of employment hadn't even given us a emeregency number to contact if an event occurred let alone book on or check calls was this illegal if so what is the law, bs standard, hse rule to say they broke the law. I will state this has been rectified now but at what risk or lack or care for our wellbeing and safety as each shift is 12 hours.
Sniff23 - 22-Apr-18 @ 11:15 PM
Maz - Your Question:
I work alone in a large two storey medical building at night I ring my supervisor before I leave the building she doesn't always answer and sometimes she is not even in the country it use to be two of us at night but now they've decided I'll be fine on my own once I've rang I have to make my way through the building and set the alarm before I can lock up it frightens me to death being on my own.

Our Response:
Talk to your employer. Ask if another colleague can be available to respond to your calls if your supervisor is not always available. If you're unhappy with the response or the safety precautions in place, follow the advice in the article above.
SafeWorkers - 16-Apr-18 @ 10:51 AM
Chalky - Your Question:
We employ an elderly lady to clean our factory offices from midnight to 6am. She works alone and whilst she locks all doors etc are we acting within the law to allow her to be here alone?

Our Response:
Make sure you have completed a risk assessment and that you are happy that any risks identified have adequate measures in place to counter them. The HSE website will help with this.
SafeWorkers - 13-Apr-18 @ 3:08 PM
I work alone in a large two storey medical building at night I ring my supervisor before I leave the building she doesn't always answer and sometimes she is not even in the country it use to be two of us at night but now they've decided I'll be fine on my own once I've rang I have to make my way through the building and set the alarm before I can lock up it frightens me to death being on my own .
Maz - 13-Apr-18 @ 9:10 AM
We employ an elderly lady to clean our factory offices from midnight to 6am. She works alone and whilst she locks all doors etc are we acting within the law to allow her to be here alone?
Chalky - 12-Apr-18 @ 8:20 AM
meandhim - Your Question:
HI. Does an employee have to agree and sign up for lone working? I work at a fuel forecourt with a convenience store attached to it. The forecourt has 6 pumps. There is only one door for the store. If there is a fire emergency then I'm in trouble with just one door. legal or illegal???

Our Response:
This is not a lone working issue (details are covered in the above article) but a building regulations/building safety issue.
SafeWorkers - 9-Apr-18 @ 3:23 PM
HI. Does an employee have to agree and sign up for lone working? I work at a fuel forecourt with a convenience store attached to it. The forecourt has 6 pumps. There is only one door for the store. If there is a fire emergency then I'm in trouble with just one door. legal or illegal???
meandhim - 8-Apr-18 @ 11:00 AM
Hi, I am working in a coffee shop. We are plenty from 8an till6pm and the we have 1hour to clean.the shop and do the cashing up till. The person who is closing working alone usual from 3pm till 7pm. I.want to ask you does somebody has to be there with the person for the safety and also during a cashup the till. Because now.i.am there alone during a cashing up snd I am worried that if money started loosing I would have no prove I wasn't done.it because nobody is there with.me. can you help.with.this issue. Thank you
Annie - 27-Mar-18 @ 9:31 PM
I am self employer..i am been force to complete job which is by my own risk essesment is not safe to do so?what to do
Tom - 26-Mar-18 @ 7:55 PM
Shorty - Your Question:
Is it legal for me to work alone from 5pm until 9am, in a house with 13 residents, with a mixture of problems, which are controlled with meds.

Our Response:
It is not illegal to work alone. Please read the above article from the section entitled "Supervision" onwards.
SafeWorkers - 26-Mar-18 @ 10:18 AM
Is it legal for me to work alone from 5pm until 9am, in a house with 13 residents, with a mixture of problems,which are controlled with meds.
Shorty - 23-Mar-18 @ 4:12 AM
Mandy - Your Question:
Hi I'm just wondering as it's been suggested that the company I work for is trying to get a work alone policy up and running on a Sunday at the moment there is always two paid members of staff but they want to make it me or another lone member of staff in a three story furniture store with a back door for collection and the front door for customers for 6hrs is this legal as it's in a street with no other stores open thanks

Our Response:
There are no specific circumstances that legal/illegal, please read the above article with particular regard to the section "Specific Individuals" and onwards
SafeWorkers - 21-Mar-18 @ 12:35 PM
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