Lone working health and safety

A lone worker is anyone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision or regular contact with other employees. Lone working may increase your vulnerability by escalating the likelihood that something might happen and the consequences presented by workplace hazards.

Even in a busy university, there may be times when staff are working alone on site or working away. Examples include working alone in premises, working outside normal hours or working separately from others. Lone workers should not be at higher risk than other employees and may require extra risk control measures to keep them safe.

Common issues associated with lone working are:

  • increased vulnerability to violence and abuse
  • accidents where the consequence are worse if there is no immediate assistance or rescue
  • accidents that result from lone working, such as lifting something or operating machinery, alone
  • long-term health issues resulting from isolation, lack of supervision, knowledge or training

What you need to do

If you are responsible for work that includes elements of lone working you will need to ensure the work is risked assessed and take steps to eliminate or control the risks where necessary. The risk assessment process will help you identify whether you have adequate risk control measures in place to manage the increased risk from lone working. In some cases the risk assessment may demonstrate that lone working cannot be adequately controlled and, in those instances, lone working is not allowed. You will need to review the risk assessment periodically and when conditions change. Lone working employees will need instruction and training.

When carrying out the risk assessment, the following questions may help you identify whether adequate control measures are in place.


  • Are there people at increased riskpeople at increased riskpeople at increased risk? Young, pregnant or disabled workers particularly at risk if they work alone? Do lone workers have any medical conditions that make lone working unsuitable? Consider how both routine work and foreseeable emergencies may impose additional physical and mental stresses on the lone worker.
  • If the lone worker’s first language is not English, are suitable arrangements in place to ensure clear communication, especially in an emergency?
  • What training is required to ensure the lone worker’s safety? Getting this right will equip those at risk with the right knowledge and skills to ensure their safety and avoid high-risk situations.
  • Can suitable levels of supervision be provided?
  • What happens if the lone worker becomes ill, has an accident or there is an emergency including first aid emergency including first aid emergency including first aid? How will they report health and safety incidentsreport health and safety incidentsreport health and safety incidents? Is there is clear way to raise the alarm if they are in trouble?



  • Are there any lifting and carryinglifting and carryinglifting and carrying risks? Does the work involve lifting objects too large for one person? Can one person handle any necessary temporary access equipment, such as portable ladders? Can one person handle all the necessary machinery and goods?
  • Are there any machinesmachinesmachines that cannot be operated safely by one person?
  • Are any chemicals or hazardous substanceschemicals or hazardous substanceschemicals or hazardous substances used that may pose a risk to the lone worker?
  • Is there a risk of violence? Factors that increase the risk of work-related violence are people who handle money, deal with complaints, interact with the public, provide care, advice or information and work unsociable hours.
  • Are special lone working alarms or communication devices needed? Is there a procedure to use them and are they tested regularly?

To help control the risk from lone working you’ll need to determine how the person shall be supervised and agree how you keep in touch. This can include pre-agreed intervals of regular contact using mobile phones, radio or emails. Also, agree on a notification procedure for when the task is completed and people return to home, their office or base. The procedure should also detail what action will be taken if the lone worker does not keep in touch at the agreed intervals. In some circumstances, a log sheet can be kept to know where employees are working, their estimated time of return, contact details and return. You should monitor how well the procedures are working and have arrangements in place for emergencies.

Further information

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Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing
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