How many lone workers are attacked every day?

A British Crime Survey indicated that, in the UK, as many as 150 lone workers are attacked every day. That's 54,750 each year. But is this figure on the increase?

A British Crime Survey from 2018 indicated:

  • As many as 150 lone workers are attacked verbally or physically in the UK every day. 
  • That means 54,750 lone workers are attacked each year.

Unfortunately, more up to date figures have not yet been released.

In addition to this, the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) latest violence at work figures show 688,000 incidents reported in 2019/20.

It’s important to consider that these figures are only based on actual reported crimes. They do not take into account the threat of violence which can leave lone workers feeling vulnerable.

Is the number of attacks on lone workers each day increasing?

It was previously estimated that there are 8 million lone workers in the UK, 22% of the 31.2 million UK working population. However, one of the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic has been the huge increase in the number of people working remotely.

Even though many workers are now able to return to the office, not everyone has done so. In fact, a recent survey by the BBC found that all 50 of the UK’s largest employers said they do not plan to bring people back to the office full time:

  • Aviva, which has 16,000 workers in the UK, said 95% of its workers would like to spend some of their time working flexibly and remotely in different locations. 
  • Recruitment firm Adecco, which has some 34,000 UK workers, said about four-fifths of its staff now work remotely.

It would be interesting to see new figures for 2021 to highlight the anticipated increase in the number of lone workers in the UK and to determine whether this has, in part, caused an increase in the number of lone workers who are attacked daily.

home workers

With many people moving towards a less traditional workplace, it’s important for employers to be aware of their health and safety responsibilities.

Take a look at our guide:
Health and Safety for Home Workers.

How many lone workers are attacked daily in the retail sector?

Retail workers are not always associated with “lone working”, but they will often carry out tasks alone - particularly in recent times due to staff shortages caused by COVID restrictions and isolation periods.

There’s been a significant rise in the number of attacks on retail workers with the British Retail Consortium reporting:

  • 455 incidents of violence and/or abuse against retail workers each day, on average, in 2019.
  • That’s 166,075 across the whole year which is a shocking figure.

In fact, the Co-op alone reported a 76% rise in verbal abuse and anti-social behaviour during 2020 with more than 100 incidents each day. This included threats from a variety of weapons, being spat at, stalked, or coughed at.

You can read more about the risks to retail workers here.

How many NHS workers are attacked every day?

Healthcare is another sector that is often not associated with lone working, but workers experience an alarming number of attacks (sometimes while carrying out tasks alone).

In the most recent NHS Staff Survey:

  • 14.5% of workers said they had experienced at least one incident of physical violence during 2020, and
  • 33.4% of ambulance crew said they had experienced violence at work.

News reports suggest that this has been exacerbated somewhat by COVID.

How many lone workers die each year?

It’s difficult to determine how many lone workers die each year. This is because some fatalities will happen while an employee is completing a task alone, however, they may not necessarily have been classed as a “lone worker”.

For example, the HSE recently reported 39 fatalities in the construction industry between 2020 and 2021 which amounts to 27% of all workplace fatalities within this period.

Even though the perception may be that construction workers generally work alongside others, due to the scale of construction sites, some of these fatalities may have occurred while the worker was carrying out a task in a remote area of the site.

Is lone working safe and legal?

According to the HSE, working alone is completely legal and will often be safe.

However, it’s important for employers to be aware of their health and safety responsibilities toward lone or remote workers. In a nutshell, employers are responsible for the health and safety of their lone or remote workers wherever they’re based. This could be in the office, on-site, at home, driving a lorry or car, visiting people’s homes or anywhere else they might work.

Therefore, employers must do a comprehensive risk assessment before any workers are allowed to work alone. This involves thinking about what might cause harm to employees and/or the public and deciding whether they have appropriate safeguarding measures in place.

For many organisations that employ lone workers, one of these safeguarding measures is a personal safety solution that helps to protect lone workers from risk. It ensures the fastest possible emergency response should an incident occur and provides workers with peace of mind that someone will be on hand to support them should they need it.

You can find out more about SoloProtect's personal safety solutions here.

You should also ensure your lone worker policy is up to date to account for any changes that may have come about due to COVID or any other factors.
Take a look at our lone worker policy template.

What does all this mean for the lone working assault figures?

In summary, the 2018 report which cites 54,750 lone workers being attacked each year is now extremely out of date. The working landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years and the statistics for the retail and healthcare sectors alone far exceed this figure.

It's fair to say that the number of attacks on lone workers every day is far too high and it's, therefore, important for employers to carefully consider the risks associated with both full-time lone working and individual tasks that may be carried out alone.

We will monitor official crime reports to provide an update when new information becomes available.

Further information

For more information about SoloProtect's lone worker solutions, please get in touch using the form below.

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