Lone Working


This procedure was written by the Resilience Team (Health and Safety) Resilienceteam@herefordshire.gov.uk. Readers wishing to quote these policies and arrangements as reference material in other work should confirm with the Resilience Team whether the individual particular publication and amendment state remains authoritative.


This document should be read in conjunction with the Health & Safety Policy & Protocol HSP001 - to follow and responsibilities outlined within the Policy will apply to the implementation of these management arrangements.

This document replaces:

Level 2 - Lone Working Arrangements - Directors and Heads of Service

Level 3 - Lone Working Management Arrangements

Level 4 - Lone Working Management Process

Level 4 - Lone Working Procedures


  Managers Checklist
1. Introduction
2. Legislative Requirements
3. Definition
4. Risk Management
5. Undertaking Home Visits
6. Working in Remote Locations (including outdoors)
7. Information, Training and Supervision
8. Emergency Situations
9. Reporting Accidents/Incidents
10. Monitoring and Auditing
  Appendix 1: Lone Working Questionnaire
  Appendix 2: Lone Working Guidance and Personal Safety Tips

Managers Checklist

  • Identify which employees are lone workers and the types of lone working situations which may occur;
  • Ensure a trained risk assessor has carried out risk assessments and that no one is allowed to work alone on high risk activities;
  • Ensure lone workers have an appropriate induction and understand team lone working procedures;
  • Ensure there is a support structure in place with regular opportunities to feed back about any problems encountered whilst lone working;
  • Be able to trace lone workers accurately and account for all lone workers at the end of the working period;
  • Monitoring procedures need to be established to ensure that lone workers are following safe working arrangements.

1. Introduction

The Council accepts that some of its employees would be classified as lone workers. Lone workers may face particular problems, and the Council needs to ensure that appropriate measures are implemented to protect them. Lone workers should not be put at more risk than others employees and consideration needs to be given in assessing the nature of lone working and implementing appropriate measures to reduce the risks.

2. Legislative Requirements

Section 2(1) and 3 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

3. Definition

Lone working is defined as: ‘Any activity that requires an employee to work by themselves or without close/direct supervision. This can include working out in the field or in a workplace where there is no visual or verbal interaction with colleagues

Examples of lone working are:

  • Working in a fixed establishment with no other persons on site, or when others may be elsewhere on site;
  • Working in a remote location including outdoors;
  • Working in other employers' premises or working from home;
  • Travelling in the course of work.

4. Risk Management

The Council must effectively manage the risks its employees are likely to be exposed to in relation to lone working, and in order to do this a robust risk assessment programme needs to be implemented to identify and address lone working situations.

Reference needs to be made to the Risk Assessment Arrangements HSA015 - to follow.

In many instances the risks are straightforward to recognise and manage and can be easily controlled by communicating simple instructions to the relevant people.

It should be noted that although there is no overall prohibition on lone working, there are some circumstances when legislation states that at least two employees are required to perform a specific operation if risks are deemed too great for employees to work alone e.g. entry into confined spaces.

Assessments need to be made whenever planning a work activity or work task to establish:

  • Whether the work can be done safely by an unaccompanied person;
  • What arrangements need to be in place to ensure that an individual working alone is not exposed to greater risks than employees who work together.

The starting point of any assessment should be the recognition that a lone worker is more vulnerable by definition and as such certain issues need to be considered.

  • Remoteness and isolation;
  • Condition of the workplace;
  • The work activity itself;
  • Use of dangerous machinery;
  • Use of flammable, toxic substances;
  • Confined space - lack of ventilation;
  • Foreseeable emergency situations - fire, illness;
  • The fitness and medical history of the individual;
  • The risk of violence and abuse.

The above list of considerations is not exhaustive and further issues may need to be considered as appropriate to the particular lone working situation.

Lone workers need to be identified as such and to this end staff should complete a Lone Worker Questionnaire see Appendix 1: Lone Working Questionnaire.

It may be necessary in some situations to check that lone workers have no medical conditions which make them unsuitable for working alone. This may include conditions such as epilepsy or diabetes. Both routine work and foreseeable emergencies may impose additional physical and mental burdens on the individual. An individual assessment will need to be undertaken and advice sought from HR and Occupational Health.

For this purposes of these management arrangements, three main types of lone working should be considered:

Category 1 - Contingency

Where the work itself poses no particular risk, but where a problem could arise in the event of an accident or incident, as a result of finding oneself alone. For example, working outside core hours and being the only person in the building, so that a fall or other accident would not be discovered.

Category 2 - Planned For

Where the work itself poses no particular risk, but the situation arising, combined with factors such as being alone on a regular basis as part of the job, results in recognised incidental risk to personal safety as well as isolation in the event of an accident.

Category 3 - Routine

Where the work itself involves particular hazards combined with being alone on a regular basis as part of the job. This type of working alone may result in a need to consider whether it is unacceptable to allow lone working to take place.

Control Measures

Generally, all lone working will require the implementation of basic risk controls and contingency planning to ensure appropriate response to an unexpected or emergency situation. In most cases this is all that will be required for Category 1 lone working.

However Category 2 lone working will require some additional control measures to ensure planned communication, organisation and monitoring and Category 3 lone working will require more stringent control measures and response procedures to be incorporated into general overall procedures.

Contingency Lone Working (Category 1)

This type of control measure is based around reacting to situations that have arisen in order to mitigate their impact (injury, damage etc). As a minimum they must include:

  • Means of raising the alarm/calling for assistance;
  • Methods for locating people;
  • Methods for a co-ordinated rescue response (including what to do when on the receiving end of an alarm/call for help).

Planned For Lone Working (Category 2)

This type of control measure is centred on pre-planned activity and organisation of people and work activities (job planning) in order to firstly reduce the potential hazards in a situation arising, and secondly to provide means to respond correctly and effectively should a situation arise. As a minimum they must include:

  • Planned communication;
  • Physical features of work, i.e. need for two persons to operate safe system of work, exposure to hazardous substances?
  • Managers/Lone Workers involved in annual review of Risk Assessment (minimum);
  • Monitoring;
  • Assessment of the suitability of the employee to carry out function - physical abilities, language skills, young person;
  • Assessment of risk of violence;
  • Training and information for the Lone Workers and other staff who would need to interact/respond;
  • Assessment of other ‘needs’ normally met in the workplace i.e. access to First Aid kits.

Routine Lone Working (Category 3)

This type of control measure is centred on prescribing the way in which the work is controlled and done in order to minimise the likelihood that identified hazards constantly present will be realised (a safe system of work). It is based on the thorough examination of tasks as part of the risk assessment process to decide how they can be safely undertaken where the hazard cannot be eliminated or minimised. As a minimum, safe systems of work must include:

  • Formal procedures and instructions for carrying out specific tasks;
  • Supervision and monitoring arrangements;
  • Training and information for the Lone Workers and other staff who would need to interact/respond;
  • Emergency response;
  • Assessment of the suitability of the employee to carry out function - physical abilities, language skills, young person;
  • Assessment of risk of violence;
  • Managers/Lone Workers involved in annual review of Risk Assessment (minimum);
  • Assessment of other ‘needs’ normally met in the workplace, i.e. access to First Aid kits.

All risk assessments should be reviewed at regular intervals, at least annually, but more frequently whenever there is any reason to believe that the existing assessment is no longer valid. A record should be made of every review carried out

5. Undertaking Home Visits

Systems and procedures need to be in place to enable employees, prior to undertaking home visits, to undertake appropriate checks on the name and address of the person and any history of violence or aggression. If there are any known events, then risk assessments need to be revised to take this into consideration, and appropriate measures introduced to reduce the risk, which could include additional staff support, enhanced means of communication, personal alarms etc.

6. Working in Remote Locations (including outdoors)

Appropriate systems need to be in place for logging in and out and employees need to inform managers of the location and nature of their work away from their normal workplace. Proper planning needs to be made of such work and assessment of the remoteness and terrain to be visited and coverage in relation to means of communications.

All employees must be accounted for throughout and at the end of each working period. To achieve this, a system needs to be in place that is capable of recording itineraries for all employees undertaking work alone.

Simple office based systems could utilise paper based diaries, whiteboards, electronic diaries and arrangements for regular contact at pre-agreed times via mobile phones. In other more fluid and hazardous lone working scenarios, more sophisticated methods of logging the whereabouts of employees and the means to communicate with them may be necessary.

In either instance everyone must have a clear understanding of the agreed protocol and the escalation procedures to be followed in the event of a deviation from the expected and employees becoming either overdue, unaccounted for and non-contactable.

The escalation procedure should consider colleagues, line management, family and the emergency services in order of precedence.

Currently a variety of devices are used to offer communication and tracking assistance to employees: 

  • Radio network;
  • Lone worker protection device;
  • Mobile phone.

The council is seeking to consolidate the provision of such devices and managers should carefully consider the most appropriate equipment for their teams.

Whatever communication system is being considered, it must be borne in mind that adequate coverage needs to be assessed, and staff trained and competent in their use.

Periodic monitoring and testing will be required to ensure that the systems are still fully operational and effective.

NB: Accounting for lone workers outside of conventional office hours is especially important.

7. Information, Training and Supervision

Employees will need to be provided with the appropriate information, instruction and training to support them in their work.

Training will need to be provided on the relevant measures that have been implemented for their safety, to include information on safe working practices, and on any equipment provided to this end. In particular for lone workers where violence and aggression has been highlighted as a risk, the appropriate level of personal safety training will need to be provided.

Certain employees will need to acquire skills to recognise and defuse signs of frustration, aggression and imminent violence. In extreme cases it may extend to actual breakaway techniques and self-defence. See Council Training Matrix - to follow.

Part of the preparatory instruction given to lone workers must be the empowerment for each individual, without fear of negative comment, to withdraw, suspend or abandon a work task if he/she has reason to think that safety may be compromised. Equally lone workers should understand how and when to seek advice from peers or supervisors.

Training and supervision should also emphasise the need to report any incidents as this information is essential to the review of the adequacy of the working arrangements.

Where training is required as part of the control strategy, this should be recorded as part of the risk assessment. An indication of the frequency with which any refresher training should be given should also be noted.

The extent of supervision required depends on the risks involved and the ability of the lone worker to demonstrate sound judgement. Employees new to a task, or undergoing training for a task which may present special risks, or dealing with new situations, may need to be accompanied at first. The level of supervision required is a management decision, which should be based on the findings of the risk assessment.

The higher the risk, the greater the level of supervision required. It should not be left to individuals to decide whether they require assistance

A few examples of supervisory measures which may be useful in some circumstances include:

  • Periodic telephone contact with lone workers;
  • Periodic site visits to lone workers;
  • Regular contact, e.g. telephone, radio, etc;
  • Automatic warning devices, e.g. motion sensors, etc;
  • Manual warning devices, e.g. panic alarms, etc;
  • End of task/shift contact, e.g. returning keys.

8. Emergency Situations

Employees need to be familiar with safe working practices for emergency situations and in relation to the risks of violence and aggressions when in contact with service users, members of the public etc. Employees should receive the appropriate information, instruction and training to enable them to deal effectively with emergency situations that may arise in connection with their lone working.

If an employee feels that their personal safety is compromised the Council would expect them to consider their own safety and do the following:

  • Get out of the situation;
  • Summon help;
  • Call security or the police.

The means of raising an alarm, whether for employees within premises, or for those undertaking outside visits needs to be considered. The type of panic alarm will require assessment taking into account its suitability to the nature of the service being provided and the expected response required from others on hearing the panic alarm.

Panic Alarms can be:

  • Audible alarms to cover receptions areas, interview rooms etc. which are either fixed or portable/personal;
  • Silent alarms within premises, which can be detected in adjacent offices or by security staff;
  • Portable mobile alarms used externally, which are audible to others;
  • Silent mobile alarms linked to a monitoring centre.

Whatever system is utilised, staff will need to be trained and competent in their use, and periodic monitoring and testing will be required to ensure that the alarms are still fully operational and, as appropriate that response strategies are still effective.

9. Reporting Accidents/Incidents

Should employees have an accident or encounter violence and aggression in the course of their employment, the Council has an accident/incident reporting procedure, which should be followed. Appropriate investigation and reviews of any relevant safe systems should be undertaken.

Reference needs to be made to: Violence & Aggression HSA017 - to follow and the Council’s Accident and Incident Reporting Arrangements HSA001 - to follow.

10. Monitoring and Auditing

Ongoing monitoring is essential to ensure that the systems of work identified following risk assessment are being complied with and are still effective in controlling risks. Observation by an appropriate line manager should be supplemented by formal systematic monitoring and auditing of work activities.

In addition, risk assessments will need to be regularly reviewed and updated particularly if it is suspected that they are no longer valid, e.g. where there has been a significant change. This will be required when equipment, machinery, substances, technology, legislation, evidence based research practices and procedures etc. are changed.

The risk control measures will be continually refined through adequate monitoring arrangements, which will vary depending on the nature of the activity and risk assessment findings. This will result in demonstrable improvements which will be communicated to staff.

11. Further Guidance

Health and Safety Executive guidance on Lone Working

Health and Safety Executive Lone Worker Case Studies

Health and Safety Executive leaflet on Working Alone

Appendix 1: Lone Working Questionnaire

Click here to view questionnaire

Appendix 2: Lone Working Guidance and Personal Safety Tips

Lone working within premises during office hours: Staff working alone within a department during office hours must be provided with procedures that cover:

  • Ensure that you are near to a telephone to call for help if needed;
  • Ensure that keys are secured and not accessible to visitors;
  • If you become anxious regarding your safety, you should call someone for help;
  • The incident must be reported to the relevant manager as soon as practical after the event.

Lone Working outside Office Hours: When staff are working alone within a Department outside office hours as a matter of routine they should:

  • Ensure that this only takes place with the knowledge and authorisation of the relevant manager;
  • Ensure all windows and doors are secured to prevent unauthorised access, especially when leaving the building;
  • If an incident occurs, it must be reported to the relevant manager as soon as practical after the event. This may mean notifying the manager on an out of hours number if necessary.

Lone Working off Site: Staff working alone, away from a Department must advise colleagues of the following BEFORE THEY LEAVE:

  • Where they are going and nature of the appointment;
  • Who they are going to see;
  • A contact telephone number, if possible;
  • The time of the appointment;
  • The likely or estimated time of the visit;
  • The time when they are expected to return to the office;
  • If they are not returning to the office, the time and location of their next visit or the time when they are due to arrive home;
  • If involved in a car accident or breakdown, the Line Manager should be informed as well as the Emergency Services.

In addition staff must always:

  • Carry official Herefordshire Council identification on every visit;
  • Carry an alternative means of communication if possible e.g. mobile phone, personal alarm.

Severe Weather Conditions

If weather conditions are severe and roads are unsafe, do not put yourself at unnecessary risk. Managers must be prepared to make a decision where weather conditions may render safe delivery of a service impossible, and communicate that decision to affected employees.

The Buddy System

When a member of staff makes a visit late in the day, not intending to return to work, or where there is no-one in the Department to check back with, they should employ the Buddy System. The “Buddy” should be provided with:

  • The expected time of return;
  • The telephone number of the manager to contact if the staff member fails to return;
  • The telephone number to contact if the manager is not available;
  • Where to find full details on the last visit made (as detailed in section 2.1 above).

If the manager decides to implement the Buddy System it should be set up as appropriate for the team and every individuals responsibility to use the system. It is the responsibility of the Manager to start enquiries if a staff member’s whereabouts are unknown.

Personal Safety in Your Car

  • Keep your car in good working order, rectify any faults and ensure it is serviced regularly;
  • Always ensure you have adequate fuel;
  • Carry details of the breakdown/rescue organisations in the vehicle;
  • Plan your route before setting off - when you have the choice use main roads;
  • Tell someone the route you will be taking and when you expect to arrive;
  • Have directions and maps in the car so that you do not have to stop to ask;
  • Do not have valuables visible in the car when driving;
  • Keep the doors locked and windows closed, especially in towns where you will be stopping at junctions;
  • Keep handbags, briefcases and mobile phones out of reach of open windows in case of snatch thieves;
  • When you leave the car, lock personal belongings in the boot; do not leave them on display;
  • Lock your car, even if you are only going to pay for petrol on a garage forecourt;
  • When parking in daylight, consider what the area will be like in the dark;
  • At night, park in a place that is well lit and, if possible, busy. Try to avoid car parks where you and your vehicle are not clearly visible;
  • If you think you are being followed, keep driving until you reach a busy area or a police/fire or ambulance station - or even a garage.

If Your Car Breaks Down

  • Pull into a safe place if you can;
  • Once stationary switch off the ignition, turn on your hazard warning lights and, if you have a mobile phone, summon assistance;
  • Try to assess whether it is safer to stay in your car, or to get out. Take account of how isolated you are and the time of day;
  • If you stay inside, consider sitting in the passenger seat to give the impression you are not alone;
  • Keep your doors locked and the window open no more than 1.5 inches. If someone stops to offer help, ask him or her to telephone for assistance if you haven’t already done so;
  • If you leave the car lock it. If it is dark, or will be soon, take a torch;
  • If you have a warning triangle, place it in the direction of on-coming traffic, 30 metres from your car and on the same side of the road.

Personal Safety on Foot

  • You are more likely to be able to escape danger wearing clothes you can move in easily and shoes that are comfortable, walking quickly is usually safer than trying to run;
  • Valuables should be kept secured;
  • Whenever possible, avoid walking alone at night;
  • Keep to busy, well-lit roads where possible;
  • Do not take short cuts, unless you know they are as safe as the longer route.

When working alone, if you have any concerns regarding your safety, please inform your line manager.