April 1, 2020

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Lone Working

Guide to lone Working: HSE guidance updated

Working by yourself in a remote location presents a set of challenges both for employers and the lone workers. It is estimated that there are eight million lone workers in the UK which represents about 20% of the UK workforce. On this content hub, SHP brings you the latest lone working guidance.

What is lone working?

The HSE classifies a lone worker as ‘someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision‘, and this incorporates a wide range of job roles. As well as home workers and remote workers, such employees as engineers, construction workers and field technicians whose role does not permit them to work at home are becoming increasingly familiar with lone working, with reduced capacities, staggered shift patterns and other such social distancing measures seeing employees frequently coming into situations where they work alone or without direct supervision for extended periods of time.

The HSE states that, as an employer, it is your duty to manage any health and safety risks before you allow people to work alone. This applies to anyone contracted to work for you, including self-employed people.

Lone worker risks

Risks that particularly affect lone workers include:

Working from home

home officeYou have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers and the same liability for accident or injury as for any other workers. This means you must provide supervision, education and training, as well as implementing enough control measures to protect the homeworker.

Writing for SHP in 2018, Worthwhile Training‘s Nicole Vazquez suggested employers need to be aware that their home workers are lone workers and should be treated as such, particularly when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

During the coronavirus pandemic, when many employees that were perhaps not used to working from home were required to work remotely, SHP, Barbour EHS and The Healthy Work Company put together a home working content hub, to provide research, case studies, videos and resources to enable you to lead this transition in a way which safeguards the wellbeing of your teams and maximises the opportunity to embrace new ways of working for the future.

Around 8.7 million people said that they worked from home in 2019 – less than 30% of the UK workforce – according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics. The same survey also reported that only 1.7 million regularly worked from home. This means employers and employees should be aware of occupational health and safety in the home.

Click here for SHP’s guide to home working.

Find out more on home working from the HSE.

Updates to HSE Guidance on Lone Working – Policies and Procedures Explained

In March 2020, the HSE updated its Protecting Lone Workers: How to Manage the Risks of Working Alone guidance document, which advises employers and employees on the factors that need to be considered when assessing and managing the risks to lone workers’ health, safety and wellbeing.

What must an employer of a lone worker do?

Despite lone working being a completely legal procedure, employers need to ensure that the health, safety and wellbeing of lone workers is taken as seriously as it is for those employees based permanently on work premises/in near constant contact with their supervisors and fellow colleagues. Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of lone workers as far as is reasonably practicable under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, as well as being legally required to assess and manage the risks to lone working employees under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Lone workers should be accommodated within an employer‘s general workplace risk assessment, with policies put in place to control, mitigate and remove the level of risk they face when working alone. As part of a lone working risk assessment checklist, employers must assess, monitor and review such factors as manual handling, illness, fire safety, slips, trips and falls, equipment failure and violence, implementing a range of control measures that apply to each individual employees’ lone working environment that will help to reduce and eliminate such risks.

While those who are lone working face the same health and safety risks as any other employee, there is a greater risk of these hazards causing harm, as lone workers may not have anyone to provide help or support in the event of an incident. Employers need to be aware of this heightened level of risk, and as a result, all organisations are legally required to regularly review and update their lone working procedures and risk assessments for lone workers to safeguard their health and wellbeing.

What is a lone worker policy?

While employers are accountable for implementing lone worker policies and procedures, lone workers are equally responsible for understanding and following them. As well as ensuring a positive safety culture, a lone working policy clearly define employees’ responsibilities and outline any guidance for reporting incidents. Examples of lone work procedures for employees include attending any training issued by the employer, identifying and reporting incidents, accidents and near misses and carrying a monitoring or safety device when required.

What are the key updates within the HSE’s Protecting Lone Workers guidance document?


major area of focus for the HSE’s Lone Working updated guidance document is that of employees’ mental health, particularly the impact of lone working on stress and wellbeing. Not only does working alone have a higher chance of invoking feelings of isolation and disconnect due to the lack of social contact and the physical presence of colleagues, but it can also mean that employers are unable to detect the warning signs of an employee who may be experiencing or at risk of experiencing work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

In light of its latest annual statistics report, in which the HSE discusses the increase in work-related stress, depression and anxiety in the UK in recent years, the new lone working guidance calls for employers to pay closer attention to the mental health of lone workers, with support systems in place to ensure that managers keep in close contact with their employees. Employers have a legal duty to support their lone workers and look after their mental health in the workplace by carrying out risk assessments, modifying lone working environments accordingly to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to help keep feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety at bay. This includes the implementation of procedures that allow direct contact between a lone worker and their line manager.

In line with this, the HSE guidance document has also been updated as to how managers should maintain contact with lone workers. Technological advances mean that there is no end to the number of ways in which employers can maintain a strong level of communication and monitor those who are lone working, supervising their workload and checking in with them. Employers should regularly keep in touch via pre-agreed meetings, include lone working employees in social events inside and outside of work, update and consult them on any changes they may be affected by and provide training as and when required.

The final update to the HSE guidance document is how to protect lone workers against the risk of work-related violence. While all employees are technically at risk from violence in the workplace, concerns regarding the vulnerability of lone workers often arise from the fact that they cannot always call on support to prevent an incident from occurring or immediately notify their employers if one has occurred. Recommended lone working procedures to safeguard employees against the risk of violence include employee training on personal safety and the provision of safety equipment that can be operated manually or automatically to raise the alarm if an incident occurs.

Online training

With certain social distancing guidelines set to remain in place for the foreseeable future, it is more important than ever for employers to maintain the health, safety and wellbeing of lone workers during these uncertain times. As a result, health & safety testing, inspection and compliance services firm SOCOTEC is providing a range of related online training courses on mental health and wellbeing, providing employers and lone working employees alike with guidance and support on such topics as mindfulness, resilience and stress awareness.

Providing additional safeguards for lone workers

Lone workers are more prone to work-related accidents, due to their prolonged exposure to environmental factors and the lack of supervision. Businesses have a responsibility to make sure they protect their employees who work alone by identifying the work hazards and setting up lone worker safety procedures to prevent possible accidents and injuries. By law, employers have a legal duty to assess all risks to health and safety and provide a safe work environment for all their employees. However, most business owners tend to ignore the regulations and not having appropriate safety measures in place to protect these workers can have a very costly effect on businesses. Fortunately for business owners, we live in an age of innovation where personal safety is one of the leading technological fields. Personal tracking technology created a plethora of devices and applications that can be used in the business world to keep track of employees and improve their safety.

Lone worker solution


As with any other lone worker safety solution, there are certain steps to take to establish a secure work environment. Training the employees about the potential dangers they may face in the field is the first step. Informed personnel is less likely to be involved in accidents, and they know what to do in case of emergencies.

Lone worker APPs help to provide additional safety for employees who work in distant, remote job sites. Technicians, service agents, miners and people of similar professions are required to work without any contact with other people for hours during their shifts. Because of the solitary work conditions, any serious accidents that might happen can lead to devastating consequences if not responded in a timely manner.

Lone worker device

Emergency situations are always time sensitive, and it is important to send medical help as quickly as possible. A lone worker APP offers effective tools that can help reduce the response times drastically. Geofence zones, real-time location tracking, man down alarm and timed sessions are only a few of the prominent tools managers can use to increase the safety of their staff. Geofence zones can be utilized as an early warning system as well as to check the arrival and departures times of the employees to the job site. Once breached, a geofence zone issues an alert to the responsible supervisor. Field managers can check if the breach is according to schedule or an unplanned movement. If the employee has indeed left the job site untimely, the manager can contact the employee to find out if it is an emergency situation. These virtual perimeters enhance safety and allow business managers to determine if an employee is efficient or spends more time than they are supposed on a job order.

Click here to read more on providing additional safeguards for lone workers.


In 2020, Thames Water became the latest company to announce it was to start using the What3words smartphone app to provide more accurate, pinpoint location information across its vast away of sites. This followed a report in 2019 that the police had urged everyone to download the What3words app, saying it had already been used to help save lives.

What3words has divided the world into 57 trillion 3m by 3m squares and given each a unique three word ‘address’. It means, a person’s exact location can be pinpointed, more accurately than a street name or postcode, in the event of an emergency. The caller can simply describe precisely where help is needed, using just three words.

The app is free to download for both iOS and Android phones and, once installed, does not need an online connection to work. The three-word format also works anywhere in the world, in 36 languages.

Eight apps for lone workers

A smartphone is a great tool to help lone workers maintain contact with their supervisor or employer, whilst also also enabling them to access a range of apps on a lone worker device they are familiar with – and this can play an important role in their safety.

Here are a range of apps, covering a wide range of industries, which every lone worker should have available on their smartphone.

Lone working resources

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Over 90% of stalking victims experience psychological impacts

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Tesco staff offered bodycams after rise in violent attacks  

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Webinar: Perfecting Your Lone Working Policy: An Essential Guide to Safety and Success

Join us on October 4th at 11am for an engaging webinar all about perfecting your lone working policy. Explore the essential guide to enhancing safety and success for lone workers, featuring insights, practical tips, and resources to ensure comprehensive protection in today’s evolving work landscape.

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Worrying figures reveal the extent of global workplace violence and harassment

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Safepoint partner with security giants ADT

UK-based lone working experts Safepoint have signed an exclusive partnership agreement with ADT –one of the world’s most trusted security brands– to better protect their growing user base.

Report finds women experiencing high levels of workplace harassment

New research from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust shows women more likely than men to experience harassment within or on their way to their workplace.

Can you afford a lone worker safety solution?

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Protecting lone workers through the winter months

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SoloProtect launches new range of intuitive touchscreen devices

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Business Case for Investment in a Lone Worker Safety Solution

Learn how a lone worker safety solution can help you to avoid unexpected fines, costs & losses, save & make money plus how to choose wisely

Webinar: How to protect all staff in a world of hybrid working?

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3 in 5 employers have seen an increase in hybrid working since the pandemic, new survey shows

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New law protects emergency and retail workers from violence

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UK approves treaty tackling violence at work

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Smarter supervision of Morrison Water Services’ field operations

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Top ten tips for lone working over the festive period

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A guide to home working

Many businesses have begun to embrace the idea of flexible working and working from home and, in the current climate, more and more of us may find ourselves plunged into doing so for longer than the one to two days a week, which employers and employees adapt to fairly easily.

Government confirms implementation of ‘Harper’s Law’

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Lone worker device or app? Which should you choose?

If you’re looking to enhance your organisation’s employee safety measures, you will, no doubt, have considered rolling out dedicated lone worker safety devices to high-risk colleagues.

24/7 safety app protects homeworkers from risk

It’s important to remember that homeworkers are also lone workers. So how can you demonstrate duty of care and ensure their safety and wellbeing is protected?

Safety app protects remote workers

If you’re regularly faced with social risks such as aggressive behaviour or verbal abuse, carrying a dedicated personal safety device is essential to ensure you can discreetly call for help, without needing to make a call on your mobile phone (because this could cause the situation to escalate).

Safety app provides 24/7 emergency support

If you haven’t yet provided your employees with a personal safety solution to ensure their security and wellbeing, or you’re looking to expand your current solution to include lower risk colleagues, a personal safety mobile app is a great place to start.

Usdaw disappointed by government response to protection of shop workers law

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Care provider fined after an employee sexually assaulted and raped by a Service User

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‘Over 90% of retail staff have been assaulted, threatened or abused in the last 12 months’

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Study reveals significant levels of verbal and physical violence towards security staff

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Violence and abuse against shop workers increasing

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New research shines light on technology’s role in lone worker safety 

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Inspections to look at how schools and colleges work to prevent sexual harassment, online sexual abuse and sexual violence

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G4S sentenced after employee attacked at a youth offender training centre

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PPE and tech: The role of technology in protecting lone workers

From technology developments to changes in the workplace, lone worker protection has evolved considerably over recent years.

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