All employers should comply with their legal duties towards lone workers under:

l the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974; and

l the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Is it legal to work alone and is it safe?

Working alone is not, in itself, against the law and it will often be safe to do so. But the law does require employers and others to think about, and deal with, any health and safety risks before people are allowed to work alone.

Employers have responsibility for the health, safety and welfare at work of all of their employees. They are also responsible for the health and safety of those affected by work activities for example any self-employed people they engage and visitors such as contractors. These responsibilities cannot be transferred to any other person, including those people who work alone. It is the employer’s duty to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to avoid or control risks where necessary. Employees have responsibilities to take reasonable care of themselves and other people affected by their work activities and to co-operate with their employers in meeting their legal obligations.

Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. They may be found in a wide range of situations, such as:

l people in fixed establishments;

l people working alone in premises for example, in small workshops, petrol stations, kiosks or shops;

l people who work from home;

l people working separately from others for example, in factories, warehouses, some research and training establishments, leisure centres or fairgrounds;

l people working outside normal hours for example, cleaners and security, production, maintenance or repair staff.

How do we assess and control the risks?

Employers need to investigate the potential hazards faced by lone workers and assess the risks involved both to the lone worker and to any person who may be affected by their work. Employers should ensure that measures are in place to control or avoid such risks.

Lone worker employers should:

l involve staff or their representatives when undertaking the required risk assessment process;

l take steps to check control measures are in place such as instruction, training, supervision and issuing protective equipment;

l review risk assessments annually or, as few workplaces stay the same, when there has been a significant change in working practice;

lwhen a risk assessment shows it is not possible for the work to be conducted safely by a lone worker, address that risk by, for example, making arrangements to provide help or back-up; and

l where a lone worker is working at another employer’s workplace, that employer should inform the lone worker’s employer of any risks and the required control measures.

Risk assessment should help employers decide on the right level of supervision. There are some high-risk activities where at least one other person may need to be present. Examples of risk assessments can be viewed on the HSE website at: Employers who have five or more employees must record the significant findings of all risk assessments.

To find out more:

l Five steps to risk assessment Leaflet INDG163(rev2) HSE Books 2006 (single copy free or priced packs of 10 ISBN 978 0 7176 6189 3)

l Employers’ Liability (Compulsory) Insurance Act 1969: A guide for employers Leaflet HSE40(rev3) HSE Books 2008 (single copy free or priced packs of 10 ISBN 0 978 0 7176 6331 6)