Lone working
June 9, 2023

Lone working: An overview

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers as those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. Examples include:

  • Delivery drivers, health workers and engineers
  • Security staff or cleaners
  • Work in warehouses or petrol stations
  • Home workers.

Working alone presents a unique health and safety problem. At first sight, lone workers must ensure their own safety.

Employers must ensure that lone workers are at no more risk than other workers. Therefore, potential hazards that relate specifically to lone workers must be assessed by employers and appropriate action taken to reduce the risks. The overall duty set out in s.2(1) OF THE Health and Safety at Work,etc., Act 1974 (HSWA) imposes a duty on every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably oracticable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees. This topic outlines the steps that employers must take to prevent harm to employees who are lone workers.

A tragic example of health and safety issues related to lone workers is the prosecution of Corporate Services Management Ltd in November 2021 following the death of a security guard. The worker died from hypothermia after being found in deep snow at a remote wind farm site in Scotland. In preparing its emergency plan, the employer had failed to include times when no-one from the company was present at the site. The deceased had no reliable means of calling for help. There were very poor mobile phone signals.

  • The Health and Safety Executive defines lone workers as those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision.
  • Lone working is prohibited in some work situations and activities where regulation specifies requirements for supervision, assistance or accompanied working if work is hazardous or involves certain categories of workers.
  • Lone working can bring additional risk so a risk assessment must be conducted, taking into account the hazards of the specific job and employees involved. Employers must develop procedures to control risks and protect employees from the dangers arising from lone working.
  • Certain employees may be at particular risk when working alone, such as those with medical conditions.
  • A range of devices and software systems are available for managing lone workers and reducing risks.
  • Lone workers should receive appropriate training to ensure they are competent and able to deal with foreseeable problems.
  • More than six million people in the UK work either in isolation or without direct supervision.
Lone working: An overview