Keeping yourself safe when working alone

A huge number of roles involve people being left alone or isolated when working. With the darker mornings and evenings and wintery weather just set to draw in, protecting staff and volunteers working alone becomes even more of a hot topic.

A lone worker is anyone who often works by themselves or without close or direct supervision, and the duty to keep lone workers healthy and safe is enshrined in both the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999.


Lone worker facts from Barry Lane

barry-laneBelow are 5 interesting lone worker facts from our Lead Health & Safety consultant Barry Lane, MBE.

  1. It’s not a risk worth taking.  Around 160 attacks on lone workers take place every day in the UK, and the consequences of not having adequate control  measures in place go beyond harm to staff.  An employer received a hefty fine after their gamekeeper had a quad-bike accident and died because no-one knew he’d been injured.

  2. What are the risks? The risks faced by lone workers are similar to those faced by all staff and volunteers, but isolated working practices can exacerbate some risks, especially:

  • fire
  • violence and abuse
  • theft/intruders
  • sudden illness or injury
  • driving risks
  • lack of supervision and support

The protection of lone workers should start with a work place risk assessment. When completing a risk assessment of your work, your employer should involve you in the discussion and decisions about control measures and the risk assessment should be reviewed annually, or after a change in working practice.

3. Is there a greater risk for some people?   If you have certain medical conditions like diabetes or epilepsy, you’re young and inexperienced, disabled, if you’re first language isn’t English or you’re pregnant, these can all compound the risks you take if you are working alone.  Your employer should be considering these additional circumstances when they complete a risk assessment.  And that’s why a standard ‘off the shelf’ risk assessment is a bad idea.  You and your employer should be assessing the ‘real’ risks faced by you as an individual.

4. Putting control measures in place. In some situations lone working can be reduced or even eliminated to prevent risks.  Buddy working means that workers are no longer in isolation.  But where working practices demand lone working, there are a number of low cost control measures for significant lone worker risks.  For example – for the risk of violence the standard response is to issue electronic safety devices.  But this needs to be accompanied by training in how to use them, a plan for maintaining them and guidance on what to do if you’re in an area with ‘no signal’.  Other control measures might include access to first aid, job time estimates and check-in times for those working in remote areas and display screen equipment/workstation assessments for those working at home.

5. Get trained.  If you’re a lone worker you should receive training in:

  • how to plan and carry out your job safely, especially if you’re using equipment
  • how to recognise danger and take appropriate action (for example diffusing an angry person or removing yourself from potential harm)
  • who to contact in an emergency
  • basic life saving first aid
For more information and support improving the safety of lone workers in your organisation, click here.