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Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 17 Aug 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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[Add a Comment]
I work alone for 7 hrs in a shop in get someone for about 20 minutes to full he cash machine hen I am left alone . It's a large shop and busy sometimes. Being alone makes it difficult to take a bathroom break or any break. I have ever asked for help but been refused.
Bear - 17-Aug-18 @ 7:09 AM
D34no - Your Question:
I work completely alone at night welding no other person in factory nothing has been done to check ime fine just a cctv what I do I get hurt or trapped

Our Response:
If there is no clear procedure on this from your employer's risk assessment, ask them to make some changes. If you're still not happy contact the HSE or ACAS as explained in the above article.
SafeWorkers - 13-Aug-18 @ 11:59 AM
I work completely alone at night welding no other person in factory nothing has been done to check ime fine just a cctv what I do I get hurt or trapped
D34no - 12-Aug-18 @ 9:17 AM
Banksey - Your Question:
My girl friend works in a stall that sells coffee and donuts which is normally staffed by at least a few people at a time. Recently they have lowered staff numbers and now have her close the stall up by her self at the end of the day. Including counting up cash from a till in full view of the public alone.The shifts now often involve her being alone for 5.5hrs at the end of the day meaning she is unable to take a break or even go to the toilet in this time. She was even given diciplenary action for leaving the stall to go to the toilet. Further more she has developed a knee injury which makes it very painful to do any lifting or moving of heavy objects, however the new staffing means she had to lift boxes and push stock cages by her self at the end of the day. The employer has been made aware of the pain and difficulties this causes but refuses to change their risk assement with this in mind. Are they contravening any rules by these actions?

Our Response:
Your girlfriend should be allowed breaks and should report this aspect to ACAS. Regarding the working alone safety aspect, your girlfriend could ask for some of the above risk reduction measures to be put in place. She should talk to the Health and Safety Executive or her local council (who will probably be the ones giving the operating licence to the business).
SafeWorkers - 10-Aug-18 @ 10:30 AM
My girl friend works in a stall that sells coffee and donuts which is normally staffed by at least a few people at a time. Recently they have lowered staff numbers and now have her close the stall up by her self at the end of the day. Including counting up cash from a till in full view of the public alone. The shifts now often involve her being alone for 5.5hrs at the end of the day meaning she is unable to take a break or even go to the toilet in this time. She was even given diciplenary action for leaving the stall to go to the toilet. Further more she has developed a knee injury which makes it very painful to do any lifting or moving of heavy objects, however the new staffing means she had to lift boxes and push stock cages by her self at the end of the day. The employer has been made aware of the pain and difficulties this causesbut refuses to change their risk assement with this in mind. Are they contravening any rules by these actions?
Banksey - 8-Aug-18 @ 9:27 AM
Sonj - Your Question:
Hi, we want to offer an overnight service as an emergency call out going to people's homes across the city. Is it legal to have only one person, who might be female covering these calls alone. They could be anywhere in the city and my concern is that they may need to go into areas that are not safe at night for a lone female.

Our Response:
You will need to undertake a risk assessment. Once you've identified the risks, consider some risk reduction measures such as those in the above article that you could implement to minimise those risks and to meet your duty of care as an employer. A representative from HSE might be able to help you with some suggestions.
SafeWorkers - 1-Aug-18 @ 2:53 PM
Hi, we want to offer an overnight service as an emergency call out going to people's homes across the city.Is it legal to have only one person, who might be female covering these calls alone.They could be anywhere in the city and my concern is that they may need to go into areas that are not safe at night for a lone female.
Sonj - 31-Jul-18 @ 11:14 AM
Hi I work as a chef and every Saturday I work ,I have to work alone managing all aspects of the kitchen even in busy hours for a 8hour shift sometimes without any breaks is this legal to work on your own in this environment?
Chef - 25-Jul-18 @ 4:43 PM
RN4Life - Your Question:
I work as an after hours phone triage nurse. We are taking on more overnights and moving to a new 5 story location. I will be working alone in this building for 8 hours overnight. There are two tiers of locked doors for entry. I am concerned about walking in with no security and no other employees at this site during these hours. Also I am concerned about others who may have badge access who may decide to come into the building for whatever reason. There are cameras but we all know that is not a deterrent for a criminal. Am I being paranoid?

Our Response:
We can't comment on whether your own situation is right or wrong as we don't have all the details but the guide above explains what you can do if you have concerns.
SafeWorkers - 24-Jul-18 @ 10:30 AM
I work as an after hours phone triage nurse. We are taking on more overnights and moving to a new 5 story location. I will be working alone in this building for 8 hours overnight. There are two tiers of locked doors for entry. I am concerned about walking in with no security and no other employees at this site during these hours. Also I am concerned about others who may have badge access who may decide to come into the building for whatever reason. There are cameras but we all know that is not a deterrent for a criminal. Am I being paranoid?
RN4Life - 23-Jul-18 @ 5:03 AM
I work on my own in a little 1500 pallet storage warehouse ,I just store the deliveries they sit with me for a week or 2 before there reshipped out for use to our main warehouse ,can I drive a forkhoist on my own there ,or do I have to wait for a 2nd person ? and ifso does that mean if im alone im only allowed to wait for deliveries from someone, then creating the 2nd person which then allows me to drive ? or does commensense prevail and I work to my strenghs and safety
robbo - 10-Jul-18 @ 11:42 PM
Freebird - Your Question:
My husband is an OAP who has recently been made redundant. He is due to finish work at the end of September. Before he leaves he has been asked to carry out two jobs which have a high risk assessment. One is to paint the guttering and downpipes to a large Manor House and the other job is to put ridging on the roofs of two cottages. Both jobs involve going up and down ladders and at significant height. He suffers badly from arthritic knees and is waiting for a knee replacement. Should his employer be asking him to carry out these jobs considering his circumstances and if he refuses to do them what are his rights?

Our Response:
Are these jobs part of his contract? What risk reduction measures are in place? If this kind of job is part of his job description, has he talked to his employer about the changes in his health that make him no longer able to carry them out? Follow the guide above, given in the section entitled "Employee Concerns"
SafeWorkers - 2-Jul-18 @ 11:54 AM
My husband is an OAP who has recently been made redundant.He is due to finish work at the end of September.Before he leaves he has been asked to carry out two jobs which have a high risk assessment. One is to paint the guttering and downpipes to a large Manor House and the other job is to put ridging on the roofs of two cottages.Both jobs involve going up and down ladders and at significant height.He suffers badly from arthritic knees and is waiting for a knee replacement. Should his employer be asking him to carry out these jobs considering his circumstances and if he refuses to do them what are his rights?
Freebird - 1-Jul-18 @ 9:41 AM
Pebbles - Your Question:
I work alone in a bar we have no phone on the premises no emergency button is this legal as it gets busy and if I need the toilet I have to leave the bar unattended and there is money left in a shoe box under the till and I also get charged a £1. 00 if I want a cup of tea I work between 6 and 7 hour shifts Regards Debbie

Our Response:
It's legal but it's poor practice. Talk to your employer about doing a risk assessment etc.
SafeWorkers - 25-Jun-18 @ 2:55 PM
I work alone in a bar we have no phone on the premises no emergency buttonis this legal as it gets busy and if I need the toilet I have to leave the bar unattended and there is money left in a shoe box under the till and I also get charged a £1. 00 if I want a cup of tea I work between 6 and 7 hour shifts Regards Debbie
Pebbles - 23-Jun-18 @ 1:18 PM
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
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