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

Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 22 Apr 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 close a gas station at night(10pm) alone. I regularly work for more than 5 hours by myself, and at least once a week I am left alone for 9 hours! Is it safe and/or legal for a woman to be left alone for such long periods of time in a high risk occupation to close a store?
tj28 - 22-Apr-17 @ 3:40 AM
kaz - Your Question:
I work as a community nurse and I am currently 29 weeks pregnant. I am occasionally asked to work late shifts 7pm to 10.30pm visiting patients at home in my own car. We usually go out in twos but have had to do visits alone in the evenings when there isn't enough staff. I have asked my employer to be exempted from the late shifts as I do not feel safe going out alone but they've told me to just risk assess each visit I do alone on an individual basis. I'm not happy with this and I know they are saying this because they do not have enough nurses to cover this shift. Is there anything I can do?

Our Response:
Not really. Unless you can name specific risks and the precautions that minimum those risks are not possible to implement, your employer may feel they are acting with the correct levels of duty and care. If you feel that your pregnancy will suffer because of the late shifts, you should talk to your GP to see whether they are willing to give you support on medical grounds. Our guide to Pregnancy At Work also offers some good advice.
SafeWorkers - 19-Apr-17 @ 11:46 AM
Jhg211191 - Your Question:
Is it right that a 57 year old lady has to open a post office at 430am in the morning alone,she has no personal security monitor and the only other one is at the till(which obviously while working alone she's not always at)

Our Response:
As we've said to previous posters - you can ask to check the risk assessment in order to satisfy yourself that the right risk deduction measures are in place.
SafeWorkers - 18-Apr-17 @ 2:36 PM
I work as a community nurse and I am currently 29 weeks pregnant. I am occasionally asked to work late shifts 7pm to 10.30pm visiting patients at home in my own car. We usually go out in twos but have had to do visits alone in the evenings when there isn't enough staff. I have asked my employer to be exempted from the late shifts as I do not feel safe going out alone but they've told me to just risk assess each visit I do alone on an individual basis. I'm not happy with this and I know they are saying this because they do not have enough nurses to cover this shift. Is there anything I can do?
kaz - 16-Apr-17 @ 6:59 PM
Is it right that a 57 year old lady has to open a post office at 430am in the morning alone,she has no personal security monitor and the only other one is at the till(which obviously while working alone she's not always at)
Jhg211191 - 16-Apr-17 @ 11:02 AM
I work in a shop on a high street. The manager keeps putting me on to work nights on busy nights where the risk of an incident is higher I have no contract. If i refuse to work is there a chwnce of being fired.
Trez - 14-Apr-17 @ 3:04 PM
I clocked out of my workplace but stayed to work on my own project for a few hours , I informed a manager who agreed , but now the company is trying to discipline me ? have I done anything wrong ?
Flint - 8-Apr-17 @ 11:27 AM
Hi am 48 female who works in a fish shop, I am in there on my own, from open till close, it's a busy fish shop, shifts are 9 half and weekend's11 hour's don't get a half hour break just need to find quiet time to go to loo is this safe to work alone
Kaz - 6-Apr-17 @ 11:23 AM
royj - Your Question:
My daughter is 17 years old and works alone in a beauty shop for up to 10 hours some days. Is this legal. Her employer very rarely goes to the shop now and my daughter can't even get a break. When she is with a client she is also having to stop to answer the telephone and sort out the tanning beds, to me this is slave labour, and her clients are not happy either. Today she had to go out to get some lunch, but had to return (before she had her lunch) when she had a call off her boss saying a client was coming in for a blowdry. When my daughter got there the woman had already left, so my daughter got a torrent of abuse from her boss.

Our Response:
If she is under 18, she should not work more than eight hours a day and she must have at least twelve hours' rest between each working day. She is absolutely entitled a 30-minute rest break if she works longer than four and a half hours. There are no rules about working alone as long as a risk assessment has been carried out and the necessary risk reduction measures have been put in place.
SafeWorkers - 3-Apr-17 @ 2:13 PM
My daughter is 17 years old and works alone in a beauty shop for up to 10 hours some days. Is this legal. Her employer very rarely goes to the shop now and my daughter can't even get a break. When she is with a client she is also having to stop to answer the telephone and sort out the tanning beds, to me this is slave labour, and her clients are not happy either. Today she had to go out to get some lunch, but had to return (before she had her lunch) when she had a call off her boss saying a client was coming in for a blowdry. When my daughter got there the woman had already left, so my daughter got a torrent of abuse from her boss.
royj - 31-Mar-17 @ 3:09 PM
DawnAvril - Your Question:
My daughter who is 23 has a learning disability She works in a cafe and sometimes she is left to do the close shift on her own. I am worried that she should not be left on her own due to her safety, surely she should not be left on her own

Our Response:
In general there are no rules preventing this. If your daughter feels she is being put at risk, she should ask to see the risk assessment. This will detail any risks and what measures are in place to prevent them. If her learning disability is sufficient that she has a support worker etc who liaises with the employer, then of course they should become involved too.
SafeWorkers - 24-Mar-17 @ 11:08 AM
My daughter who is 23 has a learning disability She works in a cafe and sometimes she is left to do the close shift on her own. I am worried that she should not be left on her own due to her safety, surely she should not be left on her own
DawnAvril - 21-Mar-17 @ 7:16 AM
Dean - Your Question:
Is there a legal age limit for someone to be left alone to lock a shop up?

Our Response:
No - although 16-17 year olds cannot work after midnight. Some local councils impose their own bylaws so you would need to check with them too. Employers always have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their workers, so if you're unhappy with the risk reduction measures in place, speak to your employer.
SafeWorkers - 16-Mar-17 @ 2:18 PM
What is the legal age for a person to be left to lock up a bar when there are no other persons on the premises
Pete - 16-Mar-17 @ 10:41 AM
Is there a legal age limit for someone to be left alone to lock a shop up?
Dean - 14-Mar-17 @ 8:32 PM
VANESSA - Your Question:
I WORK FOR TAXI COMP MY BOSS WANT ME TO WORK IN ANOTHER OFFICE ALONE IN A OFFICE TWICE A WEEK FOR OVER 20 HOURS --MY CONTRACT IS WITH MAIN OFFICE WITH OTHER PPL.I DO NOT FEEL SAFE ALONE AS I HAVE DIABETES ALSO IS HARD TO GET IN CONTACT WITH MAIN OFFICE IF THERE IS A PROBLEM WHERE DO I STAND IF REQUESTING NOT TO BE IN THE OFFICE ALONE SITUATION

Our Response:
Double check your contract. It may say that you will be asked to work at other locations - if it does, there's not much you can do. You can ask to check your employer's risk assessment and if you're not happy with the risk reduction measures, make a formal complaint.
SafeWorkers - 1-Mar-17 @ 11:12 AM
I WORK FOR TAXI COMP MY BOSS WANT ME TO WORK IN ANOTHER OFFICE ALONE IN A OFFICE TWICE A WEEK FOR OVER 20 HOURS --MY CONTRACT IS WITH MAIN OFFICE WITH OTHER PPL ...I DO NOT FEEL SAFE ALONE AS I HAVE DIABETES ALSO IS HARD TO GET IN CONTACT WITH MAIN OFFICE IF THERE IS A PROBLEM WHERE DO I STAND IF REQUESTING NOT TO BE IN THE OFFICE ALONE SITUATION
VANESSA - 27-Feb-17 @ 11:44 AM
Okthen - Your Question:
I work in a home for ment with mental health , night shift is 8pm till 8am I work on my own , most of the men do sleep but I can't leave the building and when ever someone needs me iv to assist them , what's the rules about getting a break ?

Our Response:
Most workers are entitled to an uninterrupted break of at least 20 minutes. This doesn't have to be paid. However certain workers such as those whose jobs need round-the-clock staffing are entitled "compensatory rest" which means their rest breaks are accumulated and taken at the end of the week for example.
SafeWorkers - 24-Feb-17 @ 11:07 AM
I work in a home for ment with mental health , night shift is 8pm till 8am i work on my own , most of the men do sleep but I can't leave the building and when ever someone needs me iv to assist them , what's the rules about getting a break ?
Okthen - 21-Feb-17 @ 4:09 PM
i am a security officer who works alone at night in the city centre. i am asked to do 6 patrols in the course of the night, this means i have to go out on to the public highway outside my premises and in basesments at all hours of the night on my own. this is a hotspot for drug users and vagrants and i go out blind, not knowing what is around. is this not illegal as a lone security officer, having to patrol outside on my own.
saf - 20-Feb-17 @ 9:38 PM
I am a chemical operator that for a large chemical company but at our plant there are only 5 employees and one of them is our Production Management. I make Sodium Hypochlorite along with other chemicals and deal with opening and closing of railcars of Chlorine gas. My employers are telling me I have to take a shift where I work alone for 3 to 4 hours or find another job. Is this legal? How safe is this? Last thing, the Early Warning Chemical Alarm System outside monitoring the Chlorine railcars does not work, they have known about this for months and have done nothing to solve this dangerous problem.
Venesa - 12-Jan-17 @ 5:57 PM
Hi I work as a general manager for a nursing agency, but was told today that the position was made redundant, but was offered another job that was made up for less money, is this legal as I will be doing the same thing
Cooper - 6-Jan-17 @ 6:19 PM
I am a community driver for the nhs & up until recently we have worked generally between the hours of 8am-4pm. Gradually different shift patterns are being introduced & our working shift of 8hrs is now within the hours of 6:30am-10pm. There are 25 staff 5 of which are female. Our duties include transporting patients to & from hospital alone.These patients can be vulnerable, post operative, young/eldery, confused, have poor mobility, have mental health issues, be alcohol or drug dependant etc. We also take medication to patients homes. We are quite often verbally abused & one of my female collegues was attacked during the day by a patient! We were warned recently to keep our vehicle doors locked as members of staff have been challenged for their mobile phones whilst in their vehicles! We are left jobs to do from office staff when they leave at 4pm then constantly bombarded with jobs from 2 hospital switchboards!!. We are working alone offsite with no back up. We wear dark clothing at night getting out into busy traffic, have no personal alarms & can be sent to undesriable places. Patients & the public are very unpredictable & the only protection we have is a mobile phone & a manager that has left work but obtainable by phone (if they answer) should there be an emergency or incident!!
Gobsmacked - 5-Jan-17 @ 9:35 PM
I currently work weekends with in a building which has money,script pad and drugs in it. There is normally 2 or more of us it but this weekend the other person called in sick which left me on my own. We do have cctv but at the end of our office there is an internal security door is broke and no cctv covering the exit so i felt vunerable. But when i contacted my manager they told me that i couldn't leave the office as we weren't allowed to close and i had to wait for someone else to turn up. But when i questioned what would happen if no one arrived and i had to a 12hr shift on my own i was brushed off and just repeatly told that the office couldn't close. Are my employers right in telling me that i have to work alone or should they allow me to go home if no one else arrives? I'm unsure of my rights,could anyone help?
meme - 23-Dec-16 @ 8:39 PM
I am a housing officer and regularly work alone. Last week, I did a visit, was concerned about the visit as it didn't feel right. After I left one person murdered the other. I was the last person to see them alive. I feel so vulnerable. What can I advise my employer to do, in order to keep me safe
Vicz - 21-Dec-16 @ 8:16 PM
Megan11 - Your Question:
I open a business on my own on the weekends, a back window is broken and anybody could fit through it, cctv does not work, the alarms are not set and cash is held in the til along with a safe in an office I am a 22 year old female, is this legal ?

Our Response:
It's not illegal your employer must assess any potential risks and implement any measures to reduce those risks. You could submit a formal complaint if you feel you are not safe or are at risk - please read the above article for more information.
SafeWorkers - 21-Dec-16 @ 1:45 PM
I open a business on my own on the weekends,a back window is broken and anybody could fit through it,cctv does not work,the alarms are not set and cash is held in the til along with a safe in an office I am a 22 year old female,is this legal ?
Megan11 - 20-Dec-16 @ 4:58 PM
I work in a small factory workshop, using chop saws, and pneumatic machinery, with lots of heavy lifting. Iam employed, is this illegal
Jol - 8-Dec-16 @ 4:59 PM
Im applying to work in a hobby shop who have multiple shops in the country. all of them are ran with a single member of staff. Being female and having MS i am worried about robberies and needing the loo. id have to leave the shop unattended while going in the back to use the facilities. whats your opinion/advice?
pheesh - 8-Dec-16 @ 2:53 PM
I am going 2 be expected 2 work alone in a school frm 5.30 am. Is this right . Or should there be at least 2 people because ofhealth and safety .. thanks
Spud - 8-Dec-16 @ 12:01 PM
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