What is Lone Working?

Lone working 

Although it is usually perfectly safe to work alone, there are many risks which can affect lone workers, particularly those in high-risk industries. It is estimated that 6.8 million people in the UK are lone workers, which is about 22% of the UK working population.

What is lone working?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone working as “someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision”. This includes people working alone in the community, the only employee present in an office or any situation where you are physically isolated from your colleagues.

The three key risks to lone workers are:

  • Lack of assistance should you become ill or have an accident / incident.
  • Feeling isolated, possibly causing distress.
  • Being more vulnerable to attacks from violent and aggressive individuals.

Lone worker night

Who is most at risk?

One of the biggest threats to lone workers is violence. This not only depends on a person’s occupation but also upon the circumstances and situations under which a person performs their job. Factors that may increase the risk of violence include:

  • Providing or withholding a service.
  • Handling medication.
  • Working alone or after normal hours.
  • Work involving the handling of money or other valuables.
  • Work involving the exercise of authority such as enforcement.
  • Dealing with people under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

 Reactions to both physical and non-physical violence can be both physical and emotional. Types of reactions can include:

  • Nausea
  • Isolation
  • Shock
  • Concern
  • Anger
  • Panic
  • Fear

Lone worker alone

How can I assess the risks to lone workers?

Lone working activities must be risk assessed, considering the following aspects using PET:

  • People – working with people can be unpredictable and there is always a risk of violence occurring.
  • Environment – these include controlled work environment factors (such as security, surroundings and emergency measures) and non-controlled work environment factors (such as geographical locations, timings and weather conditions).
  • Task – employees undertaking certain tasks such as carers, those in the education sector, people who deliver / collect items and those representing authority will be more at risk.

Our Lone Working online course goes into more detail about assessing the risks to lone workers and suitable control measures to put in place. Take a look here.

The HSE also provides resources relating to lone workers, and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust aims to reduce the risk of violence and aggression to workers by providing education and support.


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