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Lone working

Lone workers work by themselves without close or direct supervision.

Types of lone workers

Working separately from others

For example, a technician working alone in a laboratory providing an out-of-hours service. A maintenance person working in an isolated area.

Working away from a fixed base

For example, a security person on patrol, a nurse on escort duty.

Working in the community

For example, a psychiatric nurse visiting service users homes in community homes.

Working outside normal hours

For example, radiographers, maintenance workers.

Being the only person on the premises

For example, a receptionist alone in a healthcare centre.

Visiting people in their homes

For example, social workers, doctors, home helps, public health nurses.

Hazards of lone working

Some hazards of lone working include:

  • accidents or emergencies and inadequate provision of first aid
  • road traffic accidents, breakdowns, punctures
  • sudden illness
  • not enough rest or hygiene and welfare facilities
  • physical violence or verbal abuse from members of the public
  • Slips, trips, falls
  • patient moving and handling
  • manual handling

Manager responsibilities

  • Carry out a written risk assessment (to include the identification of lone workers) in consultation with employees
  • Establish clear procedures to set limits on what can and cannot be done where appropriate, when to stop and seek advice
  • Undertake a training needs assessment
  • Provide information, training, instruction and supervision
  • Reviews of control measures to ensure that they are effective

Detailed roles and responsibilities are outlined in the HSE Policy on Lone Working 2017

Employee responsibilities

  • Work in accordance with the HSE policy, local procedures and safe systems of work and associated risk assessments and controls
  • Conduct a dynamic risk assessment to quickly assess hazards and risks and taking the necessary steps to eliminate or reduce them in the rapidly changing situation
  • Report matters of concern, incidents and near misses, defects in equipment or place of work and unsafe systems to the line manager
  • Comply with any safety measures (for example, lone worker systems/devices, buddy system) that have been introduced

Detailed roles and responsibilities are outlined in the HSE Policy on Lone Working 2017

Controlling risks for lone workers

Lone working must be risk assessed. The risk assessment should identify control measures to eliminate or minimise risks identified.

Control measures include:

  • lone workers having information about any potential hazards
  • referrals or requests for a visit should be made through an authorised source
  • a control point where employees leave details of their lone working visits
  • Where self-referral is made from a client that is not known to the service a risk assessment must be carried out and where possible the lone worker should be accompanied by a colleague
  • where there are known risks associated with a particular location or service user, the risk assessment should identify whether a home visit is appropriate or if an alternative location is warranted
  • supervision offers valuable support to lone workers because of their unique working conditions
  • communication using mobile phones, telephone or radio
  • warning devices such as panic alarms and 'no movement' alarms (also known as man down alarms)
  • procedure training, for example, 'safe words' or code words for potentially violent situations
  • first-aid kits and training
  • implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • security procedures for workplaces
  • implementing incident reporting and emergency procedures

The control measures should also include instruction and training.

For example:

  • personal safety techniques
  • management of work-related aggression and violence training
  • first aid procedures
  • emergency procedures
  • training in the use of any lone worker protection technology

Supervision

An employee new to the job or undergoing training may need supervision

Supervision may include site visits and checking on health and safety procedures.

Regular contact between the line manager and the lone worker is required. This forms a key part in ensuring the safety of the lone worker.

The risk assessment will identify the level of supervision required by the line manager and how it will be provided.

Contact

Contact the Health and Safety helpdesk

Related documents

General risk assessment form (Word, 42KB, 2 pages)

HSE Policy on lone working 2017 (PDF, 433KB, 5 pages)

Lone Working prompt sheet (Word, 37KB, 1 page)

Page last reviewed: 20/11/2020
Next review due: 20/11/2023