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Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 27 Feb 2020 | 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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I am researching a national conference we will be putting on in Birmingham in June about overnight support for organisations which provide social care to disabled people.Do you have expertise you may be able to contribute t this event either as a speaker, workshop facilitator or by operating an exhibition stand?The trigger for this event is the Supreme Court review of "the sleep-in crisis" about rates of pay for staff providing sleep-in duties.Regardless of the outcome of this case the model for providing sleeping or waking support at night needs to be reviewed and this conference aims to look at options.
Peter Loose - 27-Feb-20 @ 2:51 PM
I’m 18 years old doing an apprenticeship and my company sends me to job off site with my own van and with no help I was wondering if that is legal to do so?
Lee - 24-Feb-20 @ 11:23 AM
My 16 year old works at a bakery that makes sandwiches.She was given a key to work alone, at night sometimes getting off at 8:30 or 9:00 pm, no grown up on site.She cooks, operates the cash register, cleans up, takes out the trash behind the building at night, and locks up at closing.I don't know what she does with the cash, never asked.She was told not to lock the doors to only let customers in.I don't feel safe with her doing that, anything can happen.Is this practice allowed in Wisconsin?
Not Safe - 17-Feb-20 @ 6:18 PM
Is it legal for a 20 year old to work nightshift alone in a multi occupancy assisted living accommodation.
RAY - 22-Jan-20 @ 2:59 PM
I work at a gas station. Most of the time I am alone for at least 7 to 10 hours. Is it illegal for my employer to tell me I can not walk away from my register to use the restroom when I am alone??? How else am I supposed to go?! They cant possibly be able to prevent us from going to the bathroo.. that's something you just cant help.
Ashley - 16-Jan-20 @ 12:44 AM
I work i a bakery where we bake everything we also do bacon sandwiches , on Saturday I was left to work on my own for 5 hours , so including the cooking and serving on the till which I find a bit concerning as you may end up really burning yourself or falling over ! No one would be there to help you surely this is health and safety issue ?
Jovanna - 13-Jan-20 @ 9:13 AM
Iv been on the sick for 9 months in that time I had a disciplinary I wasnt sacked over this iam still on the sick and iv been told that my locker has been emtyedand my draw in the office is this a loud ? as still employed by them ?
OB - 6-Jan-20 @ 1:28 PM
I have worked at a University for 33 years. In past years, I have never been left alone (if I have had to work the day after Thanksgiving/Christmas) running the office. There was always another staff member or student worker. This year I was left alone the day after Christmas on a very deserted big campus.My understanding was that I was to have a another person working with me, but found out when I came to work I did not. I had to work the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, but had a student with me the day after Thanksgiving, but not for Christmas. My concern is (and you never anticipate,) if I was not feeling well or if someone decided to come into the office and either argued, etc I would not have anyone with me. This makes me nervous. I work on the front lines of the office so not having someone else in the office I feel is unacceptable. Especially for someone like me who has worked on the campus for 33 years. I should be respected and regarded a little bit more than I have been for coverage.
D - 26-Dec-19 @ 4:22 PM
Hi I work in a large shopping center were the past couple of months ive been moving furniture on my own (large settees chairs and rugs) all around 20kg plus and some heavier things, for example the lighest item is a rug but when rolled up its takes 3 people to move and carry, ive had manual handling and a risk assesment about the this,but i feel when i get called to this task that the furniture is too heavy,even tho ive had maunal handling and a risk assesment can i refues to lift these heavy objects??
Mtb - 16-Dec-19 @ 9:01 PM
I’m classed as disabled due 2 a cardiac arrest isi ok for my boss 2 leave me alone in work alone
Stevie - 16-Dec-19 @ 1:52 PM
If you are not using a lone worker devise and checking via say a raido, is there a maximum time limit to monitoring?
Mr T - 3-Dec-19 @ 9:55 AM
Hi my husband works as a support worker with in a all girls foster home there have been times he has be left to work on his own when there is ment to be atleast 2 night starf and Ihis line of work some of these children have been known to make false allegations against previous members of staff and he has also been put on shift with all Male staff he has also been attacked at work on several occasions due to the fack his job is of a high risk nature and yet it seem as if the managers refuse to put safe guarding in place as on one occasion his area manager requested him not to press charges after he was attacked at work and the incident in which it occurred during was severe enough to call the police he is extremely unhappy and is trying to hold on but it's to the point he wants to hand in the notice what are his right and proccedures
Worried wife - 9-Nov-19 @ 6:07 PM
Hello, I have had some colleagues who have done out of hours work, in big warehouses, at night on there own, working on plant equipment ( cherry pickers,scissor lifts) 5/6 metres up. There have been some people working in the warehouse but not directly with my colleagues. Also who have no experience on the equipment we use. I’m sure this is completely wrong and they should be double manned?
Davo - 6-Nov-19 @ 7:21 PM
I have a seizer disorder and I have been working alone on weekends for 2 months in a convince store and manager knows I do. Is that legal?
Missy - 30-Oct-19 @ 8:23 PM
Hi I work behind the bar in a social club. I’ve recently broke my arm so I’m not able to work. The problem is I’m the best man for my friends wedding next week and the after party is being held there and I can’t go because my employer says it’s against the law to use the premises for socialising if I’m not able to work. Is the true?
Woody - 1-Oct-19 @ 8:43 PM
I work part time as a male changing room cleaner at a local gym can my manager make me leave the premises even when I am not on shift
Drake - 20-Aug-19 @ 6:48 PM
My daughter is working in a hairdressers she is 4 months pregnant - it has one fan and no air conditioning.It is on a busy road in London and sometimes she has been working on her own.Does anyone know if she is allowed to be able to work in conditions like this.
Expectant - 14-Aug-19 @ 5:44 PM
I am a female who was working alone at a 7-11. Doing graveyard for a couple months and then there was a robbery attempt. My boss didnt give my any training or snything. I havnt been to work since then. I wanted to know what i need to do because i am traumatized from the incident. The guy had a gun.
Daph - 7-Aug-19 @ 8:13 AM
I am working alone in my office, I am a PA for a CEO and I am the only person working in the office. My Boss wants now to set a cctv to monitor the entrance door 24h, we don't have an alarm installed, and he wants to make sure no intruders can enter the office. He wants to install the app on my work mobile, making me accountable for any emergency could happen, that means that I need to be available 24h in case something happens. I don't want to do that. I am paid for normal office hours 9 to 6 Monday to Friday and I don't feel that is my duty to take this responsibility, What should I do?
Mouri73 - 5-Jul-19 @ 9:08 AM
ImA lone worker doing housekeeping My employer has asked me to klean high windows once a week this entails using a step ladder unsupervised , I dont waht to do this can i refuse
J - 5-May-19 @ 10:45 AM
I have just found out I’m pregnant is it against the law for me to work alone in a petrol station on nights 22-8
Vina - 26-Apr-19 @ 4:21 AM
I gave permission to the cashier to use the ATM machine inside the petrol station for me as they lock the doors after a certain time but he refused to do this for me and i had to walk miles in dark because I had no money for a taxi to get home can he do this ?
Naff - 1-Apr-19 @ 4:53 AM
Can l work a machine if nobody else in the room.
Ju - 28-Mar-19 @ 8:46 AM
I am a 25 year old female who works in fast food and I'm there from 3pm to 1am or later. Sometimes my closer does not show up is it legal for me to be working this alone ?
Athena - 28-Mar-19 @ 3:12 AM
Hi I have had a total knee replacement. does my company have a duty of care towards my working hours. I work in a coffee shop which is situated instore.
Elaine - 17-Jan-19 @ 8:18 AM
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
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