Is a Simple Lone Working Policy Sufficient to Document Your Arrangements?

showing lone worker in board room

If you have workers who regularly work on their own, you need to ensure that you fully document your health and safety arrangements to ensure that all the measures required to keep your staff safe are in place.  This article takes you through some of the arrangements that need to be considered and which could form part of a simple lone working policy.

What is lone working?

The health and safety executive (HSE’s) definition states: “Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision”. Lone working may take place off-site, on-site and out of hours, on a large site or in remote areas. The HSE has produced guidance on lone working and this can be found here

What’s the risk?

When staff work alone, additional risks may arise in comparison with those who work with others. When working alone, the risks of an accident may directly increase, e.g. because there is no one to assist with manual handling, no one to act as a second pair of eyes during a safety-critical task, a higher likelihood of assault, or no supervision to ensure that safety procedures are followed.

Lone working also carries the risk that there will be no one available to assist in an emergency. This could mean that a major injury or medical incident is not attended to in time, or that a less serious injury becomes more serious through lack of prompt medical attention.

Who could be classified as lone working?

Several workers could fall into this category, but the following could apply:

  • Staff working alone in the workplace, e.g. shop
  • Staff who work apart from other colleagues, e.g. those working in research, leisure centres or in warehouses
  • People working in specific industries like agriculture and forestry
  • Home workers
  • Electricians, plumbers, service engineers, painters and decorators
  • Social workers, doctors and nurses, delivery drivers, estate agents, architects, sales staff,etc
  • Employees and others working outside normal working hours

Lone Working Risk assessment template

Lone working is not covered by any specific legislation. However, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) require employers to carry out a risk assessment of work activities. This process includes identifying “any group of employees especially at risk”.

You can choose to undertake a separate risk assessment for lone working activities or take it into account within other risk assessments for activities within the workplace.  Whichever method you choose, your risk assessment should identify the hazards posed with lone working and the controls that need to be in place to ensure that the risks are adequately controlled. The following are some typical hazards to consider:

  • Accident or illness requiring medical attention
  • Activities requiring manual handling
  • Violence and abuse
  • Long term health issues (Stress) as a result of isolation
  • Poor security measures
  • Workers who have a medical condition

Controls that need to be considered to mitigate the risks could include:

  • ensuring that lone workers are fit for the job
  • ensuring there are adequate means of communication including:
    • equipment which works;
    • a system so that you know where staff are; and
    • someone they can call for support.
  • if necessary, tracking devices and/or alarms.
  • an emergency response plan.
  • training, both to ensure that staff have the skills to work alone, and so that all staff involved in the lone worker monitoring system know how it operates.
  • monitoring of lone working activities by management.
  • ensuring that there is safe access and egress.
  • provision of personal first aid kit.
  • issue of personal protective equipment (if required).

These are just some of the control measures that might need to be implemented and would depend on the specific activities that are undertaken.  Some activities cannot be undertaken when lone working; for example, work within a confined space or on high voltage electrical equipment requires additional colleagues for back up and rescue.

This video from the National Business Crime Centre highlights several of the controls mentioned and applies them in different work situations.


Technological solutions

Devices can be used to help with the monitoring of lone workers, including their location, activity level and need for assistance.

  • Before you get drawn into the myriad of devices available, look at the risks and decide which features would be essential.
  • Consider whether you have a good mobile phone signal in all areas.
  • Also examine the internal resources you have available for monitoring the information the system will generate and responding to lone worker alarms.


Many options use a mobile phone app which saves purchasing separate devices. As an example,

  • the lone worker might check in with the app,
  • input basic details and set a finish time.

If they then fail to check out, and respond to a reminder, the alarm would be raised via a monitoring system.  The software is set up in advance with details of who to call and location information. These apps generally include panic buttons and may have a means of raising a discreet alarm; some come with “man-down” software which reacts to a lack of movement. There are also products which could overcome a patchy mobile signal.

Panic button

You might only require a panic device. Some of these will provide a geographical location to the manager receiving the alarm and can operate without a mobile phone signal. There are also panic buttons with more advanced functionality such as being able to speak to an operator.  For a solution suitable for a single site, you might choose a radio-based system with individual pager/panic devices carried by each worker. This could be more practical as it’s potentially easier to raise an alarm via a small robust call button than a smartphone.

  • The majority of companies who supply these services offer a free trial. This will help you choose a product that suits your circumstances.
  • Staff may be concerned that “big brother” is watching them. Unless you believe you need to know where your staff are at all times, consider products which only track during an alert.

Please Note: We have produced an information sheet on the above types of devices so that you can see what is available on the market.  You can download a copy here.

Do you need a lone working policy?

Under the MHSWR there is a requirement for employers of five or more employees to write down their health and safety arrangements. Depending on the size of your organisation and the activities that require lone working you may be able to include your arrangements within your health and safety policy. If on the other hand, your arrangements are more complex it might be prudent to have a separate lone working policy.  Remember this policy does not need to be complex, just keep it simple.

How can we help?

We have supported many organisation with developing policies and procedures, risk assessments and safe systems of work that record their health and safety arrangements.  If you would like help with your lone working arrangements or any other aspect of health and safety do get in touch.  We also offer a free 15 minute consultation without any obligation.

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