What is the law regarding lone workers?

Apart from in specific industries where supervision is a requirement, such as work involving vehicles carrying explosives, fumigation work, and diving operations, there are no specific laws preventing lone working. 

Employers do, however, have special obligations to look after the health and safety of lone workers, whether these are employees, self-employed people who work for them, or contractors.

Who is classed as a lone worker?

Anyone working without direct or close supervision is classed as a lone worker. This is the case whether they are mobile workers or they are working alone in a fixed place, such as in a shop, at home, or in a building out of normal working hours.

What do I need to do as an employer to protect lone workers?

Lone workers need to have a risk assessment done for them to identify what risks they may be exposed to, and to ensure that any risks that can be removed are by putting control measures in place. These control measures might be anything from providing the lone worker with specific work or protective equipment to giving special training.

Some things that employers should ask themselves when establishing working arrangements for lone workers are:

  • Are there any special risks that a lone worker may be exposed to in the workplace?
  • Is there any equipment, machinery or heavy objects involved in the work that one person cannot use safely or would have difficulty handling?
  • Is there a safe way for one person to access and leave the workplace?
  • Are there any chemicals or hazardous substances that will be being used that may be particularly dangerous to a lone worker?
  • Might the lone worker be exposed to violence or aggression?
  • Is the lone worker more vulnerable than others due to their age, a disability, or because they are pregnant or a trainee?
  • Is the worker medically fit to work alone?

Some examples of control measures that might be put in place to protect a lone worker are:

  • controlled periodic checks
  • provision of a mobile phone, telephone or radio to maintain communication
  • provision of automatic warning devices, such as panic alarms, no movement alarms, and automatic distress message systems
  • provision of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • provision of a first aid kit
  • provision of counselling
  • implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • implementing correct incident reporting procedures
  • training the lone worker in proper procedures
  • implementing a health surveillance system
  • locking the workplace.

It is possible that the risk assessment may highlight some tasks that are too dangerous to be carried out by a lone worker and that require supervision or back-up. This might be the case for work done in a confined space, work done where the worker may have to deal with unpredictable situations, or unpredictable and potentially violent behaviour from other people, or work done near exposed live electricity conductors.

How can I get help to keep my lone workers safe and healthy?

If you would like assistance in looking after your lone workers, there are lots of ways that Amalgamate can give you support. 

We can help you to do a risk assessment for them, give advice on what control measures and standard operating procedures you can implement, and provide useful training on topics like manual handling or first aid. 

Our expert occupational health practitioners can also provide pre-placement and on-going health medicals, as well as counselling services. 

If you would like to find out more, give us a call on +44 (0)141 244 0181 or email us at info@amalgamate-safety.com.