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Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 20 Nov 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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Hey I work in a medium sized hotel (50 rooms) on my own. It is in what used to be a nice part of town and since has gotten alot rougher. In the last month I've had to call the police to the hotel at least once every Friday Saturday and Sunday. Mostly for violent guests. I'm told I'm safe at work as we have cctv so if anything happens they can see what happened, but this doesn't make me feel safe at all. Just 2 days ago (saturday) I was attacked by 3 guests because our bar closes at 11pm, they didn't like this so gave me a fairly good kick in. Police were called and they have been arrested. I'm trying to explain to my employers that I need more protection at night than a touch cctv and a magnetic door. Please can anyone give me some advice
ClownPrince - 20-Nov-18 @ 3:09 AM
I am enquiring on behalf of a friend who is a lone worker. She is a care assistant (mental health) and is expected to cover two houses that are on the same street during the night. She is expected by her employer to leave one property at the bottom of the street and walk 9 houses up to the other house, alone, in the early hours of the morning (approx 3am) to carry out checks on residents and fulfil cleaning duties etc. She has been provided with an alarm and a phone, in order to call someone incase of an emergency. However she is still fearful for her safety and feels she is being put at risk, due to the time of night she has to leave the house. The street is situated in an undesirable area, with a public house at the bottom of the road, that often has intoxicated people leaving in the early hours. She also feels that they are putting her at risk in order to save money. If she covers both houses then they only have to employ one person, instead of two. She has already been down the route of addressing her concerns for her safety with her manager and she appears unconcerned. Does she have any legal right to refuse? Any help would be much appreciated.
Littlebec88 - 12-Nov-18 @ 8:37 PM
I sometimes work alone in a steel processing plant using powered lifting devices and hoists to move steel coils. We lift coils weighing 1000 pounds off a pallet, transfer it to a powered industrial truck, then load it onto a machine. Once we process the coil, we use the powered industrial truck to pull the finished coil from the machine, use an overhead hoist to lift the coil up off the truck and transfer it onto a pallet. The hoist could fail or the coil could fall off the lifting device and severely injure me. The industrial powered truck is also a walk behind and it has the potential to crush me up against a guard or a metal support beam. No one would be able to see or hear the accident because they're in another building and wearing ear plugs. My company has already had a fatality caused by a steel coil falling from a piece of equipment and another person injured by a powered industrial truck that he was backing up and it crushed him up against a forklift. Should I be working alone?
Ron - 5-Oct-18 @ 12:42 AM
I sometimes work alone in a steel processing plant using powered lifting devices and hoists to move steel coils. We lift coils weighing 1000 pounds off a pallet, transfer it to a powered industrial truck, then load it onto a machine. Once we process the coil, we use the powered industrial truck to pull the finished coil from the machine, use an overhead hoist to lift the coil up off the truck and transfer it onto a pallet. The hoist could fail or the coil could fall off the lifting device and severely injure me. The industrial powered truck is also a walk behind and it has the potential to crush me up against a guard or a metal support beam. No one would be able to see or hear the accident because they're in another building and wearing ear plugs. My company has already had a fatality caused by a steel coil falling from a piece of equipment and another person injured by a powered industrial truck that he was backing up and it crushed him up against a forklift. Should I be working alone?
Ron - 5-Oct-18 @ 12:40 AM
i work midnights in michigan at a gastation alone i am a female, in the last 6 months there is a back stock room door leading to the outside by the dumpsters, employees have been leaving the door open and locked non stop ive brought this up to my manager over 10 times. yet again tonight, what i my legal rights because the manager is not doing anything what so ever then acting like this is my problem. i am worried about getting rob, raped, murdered extra. what do i do
tiki - 3-Oct-18 @ 5:28 AM
I am employed as a housekeeper but my manager has told me I have to work in the kitchen (not asked me, told me) on a Saturday morning from 7.30am I will be alone and I am expected to serve on the bar and cook in the kitchen. We have hotel rooms upstairs and they are always fully booked. I also have no qualifications to work in the kitchen. Is this even legal?
Lisa - 24-Sep-18 @ 4:29 PM
I work in a country pub on the outskirts of a villiage im alone on side for what can be up to two hours at the end of the day. There are no lights outside a very quiet road, one side backs onto private land the other woodland and bridlepath. I am beside myself all day everyday worrying aboy being alone and attacked, I asked about panic buttons but they have been disabled. There is no mobile signal but there is a land line. Which is no use if someone attaks me outside. I am a small Female and I am well aware that if someone geta hold of me I dont stand a chance.
BlueFrog - 20-Sep-18 @ 9:57 PM
Bowiekid - Your Question:
In the shop I work in, on Sundays we have to work alone from 9:45-4:15.The company still deducts our half an hour break but because we work alone, we do not get to take the break. ACAS have told me the company is taking a legal risk doing this. I just want further info before we complain to management again. We have already brought thhe issue up in the past but management are not interested.

Our Response:
What further advice do you need if ACAS has already advised you? Sorry we're not sure of the question.
SafeWorkers - 12-Sep-18 @ 12:48 PM
Work in a office alone 5pm to 6am. Occasionally in no specific time period I have warehouse staff visit office from below floor but mostly work alone . Unlike day staff I have no qualified first aid person to call upon isthis legal ? Also if you have a possibly stroke working alone I don’t get same possible help that a day worker would get.
Mart - 6-Sep-18 @ 12:20 PM
In the shop I work in, on Sundays we have to work alone from 9:45-4:15. The company still deducts our half an hour break but because we work alone, we do not get to take the break. ACAS have told me the company is taking a legal risk doing this. I just want further info before we complain to management again. We have already brought thhe issue up in the past but management are not interested.
Bowiekid - 4-Sep-18 @ 11:53 AM
I work alone on a Sunday in a petrol station for 8 hours. I cannot take a break as it is too busy. Is this against the law?
Linds - 27-Aug-18 @ 6:28 AM
hi i work in a petrol station night shift 10pm till 6 am alone no one els is there and my boss has not told us that mobile phones must be left in lockers including night shift witch i think is wron for night shift as i am alone and i do some jobs out side and out of site of the garge so if anything was to happen to me i would be no wehere nere a phone is this right of my boss are should i keep my phone on me
clarky - 20-Aug-18 @ 2:03 PM
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
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