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Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 6 Dec 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]
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
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
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