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What is a Lone Worker?


The Health and Safety Executive define a lone worker as someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision. 

Lone working is not limited to people who are working alone in the workplace, but the definition also applies to anyone working in isolation from the rest of the workforce. 

Over 20% of the UK’s working population are lone workers, meaning around 8 million people work either by themselves or without close or direct supervision.  

Who is a lone worker?

Lone workers are people who: 

  • work alone at a fixed base, for example in shops, petrol stations, factories, warehouses or leisure centres; 
  • work separately from other people on the same premises or outside normal working hours, for example, security staff, cleaners, maintenance and repair staff; 
  • work at home;  
  • work away from a fixed base, such as health, medical and social care workers visiting people’s homes; 
  • work in construction, maintenance and repair, including engineers, plant installation and cleaning workers, engineers, assessors and delivery drivers of equipment and supplies who attend construction projects; 
  • are service workers, including postal staff, taxi drivers, engineers, estate agents, and sales or service representatives visiting domestic and commercial premises; 
  • are delivery drivers including HGV drivers, van drivers/ couriers and car/ bike-based couriers; 
  • are agricultural and forestry workers; 
  • and volunteers carrying out work on their own, for charities or voluntary organisations (fundraising, litter-picking etc.)

Which laws directly affect lone working?

Lone working legislation  

There is no specific law dealing with lone working. However, all health and safety legislation applies equally to lone workers and in some cases, is even more applicable. 

Two key pieces of legislation apply to lone workers: 

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 

Every employer has a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees. The requirements regarding safe systems of work, health and safety policies, training and instruction, and a safe working environment are particularly important for lone workers. They must also plan for the health and safety of employees through effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review. 

What must the employer of a lone worker do?

As lone working is present in many sectors of activity, the employer must identify the potentially dangerous situations that his employees may face according to their own specific activities to determine appropriate preventive measures. 

Lone working, by definition, is not a risk. Nevertheless, this type of work context is much more prone to accidents. Behaviour and habits are not the same when you are alone in the performance of your duties as opposed to when you are observed or working within a team. If an accident or incident occurs, it is far more difficult to detect an accident and to rescue the lone employee.  

It is legal for people to work alone, however, the employers have a Duty of Care for the employees and must put measures in place for the work to be ‘reasonably safe’ to carry out. Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of their employees when working.  

Lone worker risk assessment 

Once employers have identified their lone workers, they must create a risk assessment to list all the situations that their employees might face when working, whether they are one-offs or recurring. Employers who have five or more lone workers are required to carry out a risk assessment. 

The risk assessment must define the control measures they will put in place to manage the identified risks and outline a lone worker protection plan. 

In addition, you must set up an alert system adapted to their activity so that they can be rescued in case of emergency. Lone worker safety goes hand in hand with a responsive monitoring service, which is available and reactive during the whole period of lone working. Considering who is alerted in the event of an accident or incident allows your employee to be rescued swiftly.  

In case of failure, the civil and criminal liability of the employer can be sought.  

Lone Working Policy 

Employees working in isolation should have access to their company’s Lone Working Policy. The policy is a guidance document giving practical tips and lays out procedures that will help your employees to stay safe while working alone.  

Creating the policy after the risk assessment will ensure the policy is effective, it reduces the risk of legal issues for the employer and promotes a positive culture of safety in the workplace. Implementing a Lone Working Policy is a great way of safeguarding against any reputational risk. 

What are the risks for the lone worker? 

Lone working increases the dangers for employees who find themselves alone at their workstation. They may not be able to raise the alarm in the event of an accident or not be spotted quickly if they feel unwell. There are multiple risks. It is therefore important to identify them properly and record potential events in the risk assessment: 

  • Illness: your employee may feel unwell and have no one to help them, 
  • Accidents: your technician often works at height and may fall, 
  • Assault: your employee is in areas late at night where there are few members of the public present and little traffic, 
  • Aggression: your receptionist is alone and may be confronted with angry customers. 

Lone Worker Protection: What is it? 

Lone Worker Protection is the set of measures that an employer must take to ensure the safety of its lone workers. The employer must identify, prevent, and reduce all risks faced by all employees working in isolation. Employers must also provide an alarm system that sends an alert in the event of an employee incident. 

Lone worker training 

It is vital to train lone worker employees on how to carry out their roles in a safe manner. When working without supervision, it is often more difficult for lone workers to get help in the event of an emergency. There it is important for them to be trained on how to cope in unexpected circumstances and with potential exposure to violence, aggression, or being injured. Lone workers need to have the ability to identify and deal with risks by themselves. 

Lone worker monitoring 

Active monitoring can give peace of mind and a sense of security to employees working alone. It gives lone workers the ability to remain in contact with the employer during work hours and request help in an emergency. 

Using a monitoring device with GPS navigation is ideal for lone workers. The employees are only monitored while they are logged in during the course of their work, and it gives supervisors an exact location of where the worker is if they need help. This means supervisors will be able to locate and find the worker if they need help.  

Lone worker safety: Which device should I choose? 

There are various forms of lone worker alarm systems. You should therefore choose a device that does not hamper the employee’s day-to-day role, which you can determine with in-depth knowledge of the situation and risks involved. For example, if your employee is faced with the risk of being attacked, you should provide them with a device that allows him to raise an alarm discreetly, or if your employee is working in loud environments, you should provide them with a device that has sufficient volume for when speaking to the monitoring service during an emergency call. 

If finding the location of a lone worker in emergency situations is an important factor, then you should choose a device that has GPS tracking and can also operate through WIFI and Bluetooth in areas without signal. If your lone worker is in a high-rise office block or several story factory, you should be able to identify which floor they are on. 

Type of lone worker devices 

  • Safety Watch 
  • SOS Alarm 
  • Safe App 

Lone worker provider standards

In the event of an incident, the operators of the Alarm Receiving Centres or Monitoring Stations are the first people to raise the alarm and communicate with the lone worker, so they must be able to make the right decisions in any situation. 

In the UK, lone worker solution providers are held up to British Standard Institution’s code of practice 8484, commonly known as BS 8484, and Alarm Receiving Centres and Monitoring Stations monitoring services must meet the British Standard code of practice 9518. The accreditation can be used as a benchmark to show the quality of service given by the supplier. 

BS 8484 and BS 9518 guarantee a high level of security for a remote monitoring station. The operators are qualified to handle emergency situations and the management of alarms is standardised and traced.