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Should He Be Allowed to Work Alone at Night?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 30 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Working Alone Lone Workers Safety Risk

Q.

My husband works for big water company on shift work where he works night shift 10pm-7am. He works alone in charge of a water treatment site. Is this allowed or should they be working in pairs?

(Ms Sarah Crowle, 24 September 2008)

A.

Establishing safe working conditions for people who work alone is no different to that of arranging the safety of other employees. Basically, the employer needs to understand the law and standards that apply to all work related activities which requires them to identify the hazards of the job and assess the risks involved. Then the employer needs to devise or implement any safe working arrangements so that any risks are eliminated or effectively controlled. This process must also be carried out in consultation with employees and the person(s) carrying out the job must have received adequate training.

An employer must also check that any Lone Worker has no medical conditions which make them unsuitable for working alone. Medical checkups might be required and the employer would need to factor in things like the employee’s mental and physical ability to cope with the work not only the routine aspects of the job but also the employee’s ability to cope in the event of an emergency.

Suitable systems or procedures must also be put in place to enable the lone worker to be monitored. This could be supervisors coming by to check on the lone worker at designated intervals or via radio or mobile phone communication. In certain circumstances, other devices, such as alarm systems, can be put in place whereby they’re automatically triggered if the lone worker hasn’t responded to a monitoring procedure or there is an absence of activity.

There are certain occupations in which people are not allowed to work alone by law. For example, where there may be a risk of violence or a threat to security. However, there are no hard and fast rules and so long as the correct procedures were followed and the proper questions were asked with regards to your husband’s job when carrying out the risk assessment, then as long as the job was deemed safe to be carried out alone and that those findings comply with the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 then the company is entitled to employ a lone worker in this capacity.

For further information about this issue, the Health & Safety Executive have produced a document entitled ‘Working Alone In Safety’ which you can download from their website.

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Gaza - Your Question:
I work nights in an office, for an haulage company that operate tankers that carry food products, I work alone at night for 10 hours, though I do have drivers returning to the yard around midnight. But on most nights I am on my own for several hours, I do carry an on call mobile phone, but it's mainly used for people to contact me, if there is a break down or some other issue and I have drivers that collect products in Wales and other parts of the country, that call in around midnight to 02:00 with collected litres. My problem is that the company will give me tasks to carry out through the night that take me out on the yard, like swabbing tankers and it involves me climbing up ladders attached to the side of the tank to get on a small platform, in order for me to get swabs from various parts in the tank, this could be in any weather. I have no harness to attach myself to the tank and to make things even more difficult I have to not only carry the swabs up the ladder but there is an ultra violate light and a large standard torch. If I was to fall it could be hours before anyone found me. Is this acceptable?

Our Response:
If you think your employer is putting you at unnecessary risk, then you should raise this via our employer's normal procedures. If the employer does not implement additional risk reduction measures that you deem are necessary and feasible, you should call ACAS with a view to taking it further.
SafeWorkers - 22-Nov-17 @ 10:48 AM
I work nights in an office, for an haulage company that operate tankers that carry food products, i work alone at night for 10 hours, though i do have drivers returning to the yard around midnight. But on most nights i am on my own for several hours, I do carry an on call mobile phone, but it's mainly used for people to contact me, if there is a break down or some other issue and I have drivers that collect products in Wales and other parts of the country, that call in around midnight to 02:00 with collected litres. My problem is that the company will give me tasks to carry out through the night that take me out on the yard, like swabbing tankers and it involves me climbing up ladders attached to the side of the tank to get on a small platform, in order for me to get swabsfrom various parts in the tank, this could be in any weather. I have no harnessto attach myself to the tank and to make things even more difficult I have to not only carry the swabs up the ladder but there is an ultra violate light and a large standard torch. If I was to fall it could be hours before anyone found me. Is thisacceptable?
Gaza - 18-Nov-17 @ 12:21 AM
Matt - Your Question:
I work in a busy warehouse five days a week.one day a week I am required to work alone but carry out my usual duties. Should I be riding a forklift or pivot steer alone?

Our Response:
Your employer has a duty of care towards you and should have assessed any risks involved. There are no real regulations about working alone. Please see our guide here
SafeWorkers - 7-Nov-17 @ 12:48 PM
I work in a busy warehouse five days a week.one day a week i am required to work alone but carry out my usual duties. Should i be riding a forklift or pivot steer alone?
Matt - 1-Nov-17 @ 5:12 PM
BRZ - Your Question:
Hello. I have some issue in my workplace I think its completly illegal. So.I am machine operator working 11years in this company and I started do night shift offered by myself 2years ago without any documents confirmed and I think I should get new contract as night worker and signs this.only have dayshift contract and working a lone 3mths in separate department myself where is machine and electric ! Sorry for my language I am european worker. Please for help ASAP Can I claim this place ? I send message to menagers and do see reaction.!

Our Response:
There is no law to prevent working alone (on a day or night shift). If you feel your safety is being compromised you should let your employer know. If they don't give a satisfactory repsonse (eg. details of risk reduction measures in place etc) then you should contact the Health and Safety Executive
SafeWorkers - 13-Oct-17 @ 12:51 PM
Hello. I have some issue in my workplace I think its completlyillegal. So .I ammachine operator working 11years in this company and I started do night shift offered by myself2years ago withoutany documents confirmed and I think I should get new contract asnight worker and signs this .only have dayshift contract and working a lone 3mthsin separate department myself where is machine and electric ! Sorry for my language I am european worker . Please for help ASAP Can I claim this place ? I send message to menagers and do see reaction ...!
BRZ - 12-Oct-17 @ 3:03 PM
Kc - Your Question:
I work in a billard/bar from 5pm to 3am without any other employees. This establishment is known for fights and violence I have no security the owner makes me pay a waitress out my pocket because the establishment is huge I have to run two different registers and clean the entire place including bathrooms I have been followed home before and I have let him know my concerns but he doesnt care what should I do?

Our Response:
To be honest your employer sounds unscrupulous, but really there isn't much you can do if your employer simply won't listen to you. There is not much you can do about working alone unless you can identify a genuine risk to your safety. Check your contract and stick to what you agreed to when you first took the job. You shouldn't have to pay someone else's wages and may be able to take legal action because of a breach of contract. Realistically, there are probably fairer employers to work for, so keep an eye out for other roles available.
SafeWorkers - 15-Jun-17 @ 11:12 AM
I work in a billard/bar from 5pm to 3am without any other employees. This establishment is known for fights and violence i have no security the owner makes me pay a waitress out my pocket because the establishment is huge i have to run two different registers and clean the entire place including bathrooms i have been followed home before and i have let him know my concerns but he doesnt care what should i do?
Kc - 13-Jun-17 @ 12:00 AM
I work in a steelworks at night (permanent).on my own. There are 4 bandsaws I operate. There's also an electric station in my department. There's heavy lifting. I have overhead crane and magnet. Also fork lift truck. The company say all is safe. But I'm not sure. And don't like saying anything. Advise please. Thank you
Paj - 11-Apr-17 @ 11:14 PM
Fern - Your Question:
52 bedded unit for a residential/nursing home, 3 staff on usually but two of those staff will be agency next week. Is it my right to refuse to work with two agencies who do not know the building or the residents? My manager is having a talk with me about it and I would like to know of any information.Thanks.

Our Response:
No you can't simply to refuse to work in this way. If you have any concerns, discuss them beforehand.
SafeWorkers - 10-Apr-17 @ 2:36 PM
52 bedded unit for a residential/nursing home, 3 staff on usually but two of those staff will be agency next week. Is it my right to refuse to work with two agencies who do not know the building or the residents? My manager is having a talk with me about it and I would like to know of any information. Thanks.
Fern - 8-Apr-17 @ 11:04 PM
Hi Is it legal for two young 20 yr old girls to be working in a shop that is not secure- people can still get in, with no emergency back up, from 11pm- 7 am
Sal - 8-Mar-17 @ 9:54 PM
I work for an agency on nights alone. Moving cars.the other night it was frosty so I started one car up to defrost it then got into the other one started it up got I got out and it took off running into the other one damaging both cars .I did not realise it was in gear . There was no one about .I now think they are going to fire me
William Macleod - 24-Jan-17 @ 10:17 PM
I am a female and work in a bar alone most nights and have been followed while taking the bins out one night. I've asked my manager to either come and help me close up or get a security guard while I'm closing as I don't feel safe anymore. But after a few weeks he still hasn't done anything about it. What should I do/say?
Em - 27-Dec-16 @ 9:47 PM
Hi I currently work for a security firm and I work night shift alone on a building site there is no electricity is there any regulations my employer has to follow I also don't get any breaks is this right
Dinkydoo - 30-Oct-16 @ 10:07 PM
nat - Your Question:
I work as a domiciliary carer and I'm a walker I work some nights on my own is there any laws about working on my own at night I'm walking to different addresses from 7pm till 9.45pm

Our Response:
Please see our guide to Your Rights When Working Alone
SafeWorkers - 24-Oct-16 @ 11:13 AM
I work as a domiciliary carer and I'm a walker I work some nights on my own is there any laws about working on my own at night I'm walking to different addresses from 7pm till 9.45pm
nat - 22-Oct-16 @ 9:53 AM
I work 14 hour Night shifts, as a lone security guard (radio link with another guard) i deal with very drunk (or students on drugs)first year students, yes i have a radio but if the other guard is dealing with something in his building (3 student blocks over 2 sites 1600 students all together) in my last 4 days i have had 3 violent or potentially situations and luckily i have not been injured. What is the general law or guidance on this
Geo - 3-Oct-16 @ 9:57 PM
Poison ivy - Your Question:
Hi I work nights in a residential / nursing home we have 1 night Carer to 14 residents down stairs and there are 2 carers and 1 nurse to each nursing floor which have 21 residents I was just wanting to know if 2 night carers should be on ground floor so that you always have a witness to what happenes on the shift plus some of the residents need 1-1 and I can't give them the 1-1 as I'm always in my own what can I do so I can prove to my manager we really need two people on ground floor

Our Response:
There are no specific laws. Check your employer's own policy and look at local council recommendations for staff ratios in the caring environment.
SafeWorkers - 20-Jul-16 @ 12:56 PM
Hi I work nights in a residential / nursing home we have 1 night Carer to 14 residents down stairs and there are 2 carers and 1 nurse to each nursing floor which have 21 residents I was just wanting to know if 2 night carers should be on ground floor so that you always have a witness to what happenes on the shift plus some of the residents need 1-1 and I can't give them the 1-1 as I'm always in my own what can I do so I can prove to my manager we really need two people on ground floor
Poison ivy - 19-Jul-16 @ 3:27 AM
Louis - Your Question:
I am an agency worker who is still on the books as warehouse floor staff. I was offered the chance to 'move up' to team leader. Duties came contract didnt. 9 months in and I have outlived my manager and both supervisors. My colleage and I (who are in the same position) are now doing the duties of a distributions supervisor and ours on a warehouse personnels salary whilst still being agency staff. Is this in anyway legal?

Our Response:
Speak to your employer about being taken on as employees and negotiate a pay rise. Contact ACAS for advice on how to proceed if you feel your agency is not supporting you in getting the correct pay for your role.
SafeWorkers - 14-Jul-16 @ 11:00 AM
I am an agency worker who is still on the books as warehouse floor staff. I was offered the chance to 'move up' to team leader. Duties came contract didnt. 9 months in and i have outlived my manager and both supervisors. My colleage and I (who are in the same position) are now doing the duties of a distributions supervisor and ours on a warehouse personnels salary whilst still being agency staff. Is this in anyway legal?
Louis - 11-Jul-16 @ 2:16 PM
Hi , I live in a built up residential area and recently there has been a large student accomadation complex being built , they have just started a night shift , in which the workers are using loud power tools , which as you can imagine is keeping my family awake during the night , do I have any rights as a local resident ????
Crawfy - 30-Jun-16 @ 9:24 AM
Mel - Your Question:
Is it legal or ok for someone to be left alone to close up a golf club and pub themselves. Theres usually only one female on and the patrons are always worried. Is it safe.I think there should be two people.any ideas?

Our Response:
Yes as long as acceptable risk reduction measures are in place. Please see our guide to Your Rights When Working Alone.
SafeWorkers - 13-Jun-16 @ 2:25 PM
D - Your Question:
Hi. I own a small cleaning company and are potentially looking to employ our first male cleaner, is there any law that state that he cannot work alone with one of our current female employees. We are a mobile cleaning company and the staff work in teams of two cleaning houses and offices and are alone together most of the day. ???

Our Response:
No, there is nothing to prevent a male and female working together in this way.
SafeWorkers - 13-Jun-16 @ 12:17 PM
Is it legal or ok for someone to be left alone to close up a golf club and pub themselves. Theres usually only one female on and the patrons are always worried. Is it safe..I think there should be two people...any ideas?
Mel - 10-Jun-16 @ 9:54 PM
Hi. I own a small cleaning company and are potentially looking to employ our first male cleaner, is there any law that state that he cannot work alone with one of our current female employees. We are a mobile cleaning company and the staff work in teams of two cleaning houses and offices and are alone together most of the day. ???
D - 10-Jun-16 @ 12:14 PM
Andy - Your Question:
I have been told I will work alone loading 7 lorries up in the day/night loading cages which I might say some are quite heavy using a tail lift I have assessed it and I think it is dangerous to work alone,my boss says along as he phones at the start/end of the shift its ok,and he also says that we have cctv does that mean he will watch the cctv throughout my 10hr shift?

Our Response:
You need to say why you consider it dangerous and what measure you think might alleviate those dangers. Do you think you would benefit from a monitor/panic alarm for example? Or do you think it's a two person job?
SafeWorkers - 25-May-16 @ 10:12 AM
I have been told I will work alone loading 7 lorries up in the day/night loading cages which I might say some are quite heavy using a tail lift I have assessed it and I think it is dangerous to work alone,my boss says along as he phones at the start/end of the shift its ok,and he also says that we have cctv does that mean he will watch the cctv throughout my 10hr shift?
Andy - 24-May-16 @ 9:16 AM
Jelly - Your Question:
I work night shifts at a residential care home. I look after 12 residents on my own also have to clean and prepare food for the next day. No one checks in on me through out my shift. A number of residents need attention through the night. One resident was quite sick so I called the person on call and was told that sick is sick why have I called. I am finding it very stress full and was wondering if I should be left all night.

Our Response:
Yes as long as you are not put at unnecessaryrisk to your safety, you can be expected to work alone. Risk reduction measures have been put in place as you clearly have a person on call. If you feel you are overworked it's a matter to take up with your employer.
SafeWorkers - 12-May-16 @ 12:22 PM
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