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.
However, the law requires employers to consider carefully, and then deal with, any
health and safety risks for people working alone.
Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work of all their
workers. They also have responsibility for the health and safety of any contractors
or self-employed people doing work for them.
These responsibilities cannot be transferred to any other person, including those
people who work alone.
Workers 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.
Who are lone workers and what jobs do they do?
Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct
supervision, for example:
In fixed 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 (separate
guidance covers homeworkers doing low-risk work – see the end of the leaflet
■ People working alone for long periods, eg in factories, warehouses, leisure
centres or fairgrounds
■ People working on their own outside normal hours, eg cleaners and security,
maintenance or repair staff.
As mobile workers working away from their 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
How must employers control the risks?
Employers have a duty to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to avoid or
control risks where necessary. This must include:
■ involving workers when considering potential risks and measures to control
■ taking steps to ensure risks are removed where possible, or putting in place
control measures, eg carefully selecting work equipment to ensure the worker
is able to perform the required tasks in safety;
■ instruction, training and supervision;
■ reviewing risk assessments periodically or when there has been a significant
change in working practice.
This may include:
■ being aware that some tasks may be too difficult or dangerous to be carried
out by an unaccompanied worker;
■ where a lone worker is working at another employer’s workplace, informing that
other employer of the risks and the required control measures;
■ when a risk assessment shows it is not possible for the work to be conducted
safely by a lone worker, addressing that risk by making arrangements to
provide help or back-up.
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
■ working in a confined space, where a supervisor may need to be present, along
with someone dedicated to the rescue role;
■ working at or near exposed live electricity conductors;
■ working in the health and social care sector dealing with unpredictable client
behaviour and situations.
Employers who have five or more employees must record the significant findings of
all risk assessments.
Employers also need to be aware of any specific law that prohibits lone working
applying in their industry. Examples include supervision in diving operations,
vehicles carrying explosives and fumigation work.
Further information about controlling risks can be found on the HSE website at:
Need some assistance with your health and safety obligations ?
Call Andy on 01889 881887, or 07900 558547
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