Should He Be Allowed to Work Alone at Night?

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 a guide to lone working. Our own guide to lone working regulations and risk assessments may also help.

Our hints and tips for staying safe while working alone, also offer practical advice.

Last Updated on 4 August 2021

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