Home > Workplace Safety > Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 13 Apr 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]
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
I work at a gas station 3rd shift. From 11pm - 7am. Its been dificult to get employees to actually come in for their shifts so i have had to work alone multiple times. I am a female who is 5'1", 130 pounds, and 8 months pregnant. Isn't there some kind of law that they are breaking here? I don't want to lose my job but working alone is difficult and I don't enjoy risking my life for this job, it's not worth it.
Ash - 21-Mar-18 @ 4:02 AM
Jazzeea- Your Question:
I work on a construction site, should I be on site after the site manager goes home and locks up or should I stay at the risk of if there's an injury there's no first aider on site

Our Response:
Please see the above article from the section entitled "Supervision" onwards. This gives a clear explanation of what an employer can do, how to minimise risk and put risk measures in place and finally what to do if you have concerns as an employee.
SafeWorkers - 20-Mar-18 @ 2:27 PM
Just started work yesterday now being told I have to open shop myself on Thursday and be in there for 2hours myself should there not be 2 people on at all times due to health and safety.
Mc - 20-Mar-18 @ 8:45 AM
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
Mandy - 19-Mar-18 @ 6:36 PM
Nic - Your Question:
I work in a well known brand of hotels, I work an 11pm till 7am night shift. The only form of protection I have is an 'identicon' device were if I feel threatened or unsafe I can sound an alarm and someone will usually contact me throught the device. My concern is that I feel the training provided isnt comprehensive enough and I feel unsure as too how to deal with certain situations. I have brought it up with my line manager and im often met with what I would describe as a 'shrugg' reaction! I spend a considerable amount of time reading up on the companies procedures and the training regarding security issues, but still feel unsure. Is there anyone I can contact to discuss my concerns about the 'half assed' training methods. Also I am called into meetings at times were I feel unsafe driving due to lack of sleep, Ive had a few close calls in the past, can my manager legally describe one of these meetings as compulsory and threaten with a disciplinary if the meeting is planned at a time that would be inapropriat for a night worker.

Our Response:
If your immediate manager will not address this, take it a level higher or contact the HR department at your company's headquarters. They will be able to direct you to further training and also tell you whether the meetings are within the working time guidelines.
SafeWorkers - 19-Mar-18 @ 9:46 AM
I work on a construction site, should I be on site after the site manager goes home and locks up or should I stay at the risk of if there's an injury there's no first aider on site
Jazzeea - 19-Mar-18 @ 8:26 AM
I work in a well known brand of hotels, I work an 11pm till 7am night shift. The only form of protection i have is an 'identicon' device were if i feel threatened or unsafe i can sound an alarm and someone will usually contact me throught the device. My concern is that i feel the training provided isnt comprehensive enough and i feel unsure as too how to deal with certain situations. I have brought it up with my line manager and im often met with what i would describe as a 'shrugg' reaction! I spend a considerable amount of time reading up on the companies procedures and the training regarding security issues, but still feel unsure. Is there anyone i can contact to discuss my concerns about the 'half assed' training methods. Also i am called into meetings at times were i feel unsafe driving due to lack of sleep, Ive had a few close calls in the past, can my manager legally describe one of these meetings as compulsory and threaten with a disciplinary if the meeting is planned at a time that would be inapropriat for a night worker.
Nic - 16-Mar-18 @ 12:12 AM
I work night shifts operating industrial knitting machines, there is only myself and 1 other person on this shift, the other person is off sick almost every monday and i am left alone, i keep having to leave work and lose pay, or work overtime to make up the hours, this is almost every week, what are the laws around this, can i sit in work do nothing and still get paid?? What are the laws around this as i am constantly working extra days for someone elses sickness or i lose money
Ant46 - 12-Mar-18 @ 10:41 PM
I work filling drums with chlorine all day,hazardous chemicals..in a shed that averages around 50 degrees in summer,at the moment I'm.the only one on the premises for a week
Snoozer - 9-Mar-18 @ 8:21 AM
Emily - Your Question:
Hi, I work cleaning a bank. I enter using alarm then go to a phone enabling me to pin in. When finished cleaning I pin out via the phone. Then walk to door to reactivate alarm before leaving. I am only paid from pin in to pin out on phone.I am not paid for entering or leaving bank and setting of alarm. is this legal? Am I covered if anything happens while I'm not paid?

Our Response:
Yes probably. This is only the same as someone clocking out of an office and then having to leave a building really. If you're not sure, contact your employer for information.
SafeWorkers - 6-Mar-18 @ 2:52 PM
hi, i work cleaning a bank. I enter using alarm then go to a phone enabling me to pin in. When finished cleaning i pin out via the phone. Then walk to door to reactivate alarm before leaving. I am only paid from pin in to pin out on phone. I am not paid for entering or leaving bank and setting of alarm. is this legal? Am I covered if anything happens while I'm not paid?
Emily - 4-Mar-18 @ 3:49 PM
Cread12 - Your Question:
I work in a bar in a public house and work from 5 till half 1 in the morning alone. There is no other staff members on the premises for the whole duration and was wondering what kind of safety measures my employer should have in place

Our Response:
These are detailed in the above article.
SafeWorkers - 20-Feb-18 @ 1:45 PM
I work in a bar in a public house and work from 5 till half 1 in the morning alone . There is no other staff members on the premises for the whole duration and was wondering what kind of safety measures my employer should have in place
Cread12 - 16-Feb-18 @ 9:07 AM
I SUPPORT2 BOYS IN THETE OWN HOME IS THIS LEGAL 1 SUPPORT WORKER LOOKING AFTER 2 CLIENTS IN THEREOWN HOME.
Jimbo - 6-Feb-18 @ 8:12 PM
Roxy - Your Question:
Hey! I work in a food environment with shifts up to 10 hours. 7 of these hoirs are spent working alone. We are in a train station and do not have our own toilet so we have to lock up store with a back in 5 minutes sign and go onto the platform. Our store has a new owner who is now saying we arent allowed to do this and we should "prepare" by arriving to our shift early and going to the toilet. I reminded him that this is ridiculous as the time spent alone is a long time not to go to the toilet! This would surely mean we couldnt eat or drink anything just in case we would then need to relieve ourselves! Surely this is ridiculously illegal?! Side note: I suffer from stomach issues which all my work colleagues are aware of!

Our Response:
Make a formal complaint via your employer's written procedures. There's nothing in law directly relating to actual toilet breaks but your employer does have a duty of care for your welfare. If you work longer than 6 hours, the law says you must take a break of a minimum 20 minutes away from your "workstation" and this break must not be at either end of your shift, so make sure you are receiving this break and that you are able to use the toilet during this time.
SafeWorkers - 30-Jan-18 @ 11:09 AM
Hey! I work in a food environment with shifts up to 10 hours. 7 of these hoirs are spent working alone. We are in a train station and do not have our own toilet so we have to lock up store with a back in 5 minutes sign and go onto the platform. Our store has a new owner who is now saying we arent allowed to do this and we should "prepare" by arriving to our shift early and going to the toilet. I reminded him that this is ridiculous as the time spent alone is a long time not to go to the toilet! This would surely mean we couldnt eat or drink anything just in case we would then need to relieve ourselves! Surely this is ridiculously illegal?! Side note: i suffer from stomach issues which all my work colleagues are aware of!
Roxy - 28-Jan-18 @ 10:04 AM
Jackie - Your Question:
Hi.I am 16 and working part time in a food outlet. I am expected to work till 9pm by myself and lock up the shop including putting money in safe. Is it legal?

Our Response:
Your employer should have undertaken an assessment of possible risks to your health and safety -pay particular attention to your age, lack of experience, and other things that could be a risk to your health and safety. If you're not happy with any risk reduction measures in place raise a complaint with your employer. Please seethe above article for details of the next steps to take.
SafeWorkers - 15-Jan-18 @ 2:36 PM
Hi.I am 16 and working part time in a food outlet. I am expected to work till 9pm by myself and lock up the shop including putting money in safe. Is it legal?
Jackie - 12-Jan-18 @ 4:43 PM
I won't be able to get another job as I lost my ID card during robbery. Employer are aware that I got to wait until end of February to get new one from embassy. I also do not agree with the reason I was dissmissed for.
dominicahaa12 - 3-Jan-18 @ 12:35 PM
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