The Law


What is the law on lone working? What are lone working laws?

Before we can answer this question, we need to define 'What is lone working?' The HSE say that the lone worker definition UK is:

A person who works by their self without close or direct supervision.

Some people ask ‘Is Lone working illegal?’ The answer is working alone is not in itself against the law and it will often be safe to do so. However, the law requires employers to consider carefully, and then deal with, any health and safety risks for people working alone.

Here are some examples of lone workers in premises or establishments:

  • A person working alone in a small workshop, petrol station, kiosk or shop

  • People who work from home other than in low-risk, office-type work

  • People working alone for long periods, e.g in factories, warehouses, leisure centres or fairgrounds.

  • People working on their own outside normal hours, e.g cleaners and security, maintenance or repair staff 

Here are some examples of lone mobile workers who work away from a fixed base:

  • Workers involved in construction, maintenance and repair, plant installation and cleaning work

  • Agricultural and forestry workers

  • Service workers, including postal staff, social and medical workers, engineers, estate agents, and sales or service representatives visiting domestic and commercial premises.

Now we have defined what lone working is. We find there are just two pieces of UK legislation that apply to lone working. So which two pieces of legislation apply to lone working:

  1. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

  2. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

These two pieces of legislation cover lone working insofar as these laws require:

Employers are responsible by law for the health, safety and welfare at work of all their workers and any contractors or self-employed people doing work for them. These legal obligations cannot be transferred to any other person, including those people who work alone.

The employer must carry out a risk assessment of lone working activities. If more than 5 people are employed then by Law this risk assessment and risks of lone working must be recorded.

The law states that employers must provide a healthy and safe working environment for everybody and that includes lone workers. But organising the health and safety of lone workers can be more challenging than other employees.

Issues that need special attention when planning safe working arrangements include:

  • Any specific laws that prohibits lone working for example diving operations, vehicles carrying explosives and fumigation work.

  • Can the identified risks of the job be adequately controlled by one person?

  • Does the worker have any medical condition that means they should not work alone? Have they mental health issues, are they fit enough for any manual handling that may be required.

  • Training, since lone workers are unable to ask for direct help, extra training may be required. There may be additional risks in the environment they work in. These may be not covered in the standard work place training programme or job role.

  • Supervision, how much supervision is required of a lone worker to identify and handle any health and safety issues they encounter.

  • Monitoring, there must be procedures to monitor lone workers because effective means of communication is essential.

  • Illness, accidents and emergencies all need careful consideration for lone workers.

Some successful control measures that can be used in high risk lone worker situations is to provide mobile phones. Especially when provided with an app, such as that provided by staysafeapp.com.

Further help and other sources of advice may be able from your trade association or employers’ organisation. Or from trade unions and some charities, e.g the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Suzy Lamplugh was an estate agent and went missing whilst lone working. The charity was set up in her memory and to help people become aware of the dangers of lone working.

For more information on lone working and violence at work. Try our online course that covers the legal issues and some helpful advice. Plus you get a RoSPA certificate and half a CPD point.

It is a General Health and Safety Training course. Safety trainers find it very useful to train relevant staff, employees and lone workers. Particularly those that deal face to face with the public and handle cash. Bar workers and anybody involved in enforcing regulations should have lone worker training.

It meets the training requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It also meets the requirements of CHAS, SafeContractor, Construction line, Exor and other SSIP registrations plus HSE safety training requirements.