What is a lone worker?

What does "lone working" mean? Who is classed as a lone worker? How many lone workers are there? Are lone workers safe? We answer your questions ...

At SoloProtect, we're regularly asked questions such as:

  • What does "lone working" mean? 
  • Who is classed as a lone worker? 
  • Is home working an example of lone working? 
  • How many lone workers are there? 
  • Is lone working legal? 
  • How can I protect my lone workers? 
  • And many, many more.

So we've provided some answers below.

If you have any other questions, please try the search box at the top of the page or contact us. We're always happy to help.

What is a lone worker?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines a lone worker as "someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision".

This includes those of us who always work alone (such as social workers or surveyors) or those who may only carry out specific tasks alone (such as retail workers or teachers).

What is classed as lone working?

Ultimately, if an employee cannot be seen or heard by a colleague, they are classed as a lone worker (irrespective of whether this occurs all or some of the time).

It’s particularly important not to overlook lone workers who:

  • Work in the community with members of the public
  • Travel during work hours
  • Work on the same site or in the same building as their colleagues but cannot always be seen or heard by any of them
  • Are only alone when their colleague(s) takes a break
  • Work late and are therefore the last to remain in the workplace
  • Work in busy populated areas e.g. city centres or stadiums
  • Work from home or from another location

Is home working an example of lone working?

Homeworkers should also be classed as lone workers because they do not work in the vicinity of their colleagues. Therefore, it’s important to take their safety and wellbeing into consideration.

Click this link for more information about how to protect your homeworkers.

Lone working examples

Some practical examples of lone working include:

  • A plumber entering someone’s property alone
  • A retail worker stacking shelves with no other colleagues in the direct vicinity
  • An NHS worker in a 1-2-1 consultation
  • Homeworkers
  • A sales rep attending a meeting without a colleague
  • Bus and delivery drivers
  • A construction worker in a location where they cannot be seen or heard
  • Teachers without another colleague in the classroom
examples of lone working

How many lone workers are there?

It has been previously estimated that there are 8 million lone workers in the UK, 22% of the 31.2 million UK working population and hundreds are attacked each day.

You can find out more about this here: How many lone workers are attacked every day?

Is it legal and safe to be a lone worker?

Lone workers are subject to increased risk because they do not have a colleague with them to help should an incident occur. An incident could be a result of social risks such as violence or aggression, or environmental risks such as slips, trips and falls.

However, according to HSE, working alone is completely legal and will often be safe. But employers need to be aware of their health and safety responsibilities toward lone workers.

What is lone working health and safety?

Employers are responsible for the health and safety of their lone, remote, and home workers. Therefore, it’s important for employers to ensure they’ve completed a thorough risk assessment before anyone is permitted to work alone. This entails considering hazards that might cause harm and putting appropriate control measures and safeguards in place.

You may find these pages useful:

Protecting your lone workers

For many organisations that employ lone workers, one of these safeguarding measures is a lone worker 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 lone worker protection here.

Have a question?
If you'd like to understand how SoloProtect can help to keep your workers safe, and deliver operational and financial benefits to your organisation, please get in touch.
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