Safety Services


Lone Working Standard

Lone workers are people who work alone and separate from other people, without any direct supervision. This Standard applies to anyone working, studying or taking part in any activity managed by UCL.


This Standard applies to anyone working, studying or taking part in any activity managed by UCL and includes staff, graduate students, contractors and visitors.

Undergraduate students should not normally carry out project/practical work unsupervised. However, it may be necessary for some aspects of project work to be carried out alone if suitable controls are in place.

This Standard is intended to address the lone worker risks associated with the variety of work patterns encountered at UCL.

Legal requirements

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires that:

  • All work is assessed for risk
  • Workers at particular risk are identified e.g. those who work alone

UCL Arrangements

UCL Arrangements that apply to this standard:


  • Work: Paid employment (on a fixed or permanent contract), studying, carrying out research, volunteering to conduct UCL business
  • Safety role holder: First aider, fire evacuation marshal
  • Supervisor: A person who has a duty to manage any aspect of the work activities of the department, whether it is carried out by an employee or student e.g. line manager, principle investigator, research group leader etc
  • Lone working: Working without close or direct supervision or remote from colleagues i.e. colleagues may be in the next room or on other floors in the same building. Lone workers can be peripatetic (routinely walks between work locations) or in fixed locations. Lone working can occur at any time i.e. either during normal working hours or out of hours
  • Normal working hours: Defined by Heads of Department as times when safety role holders are at optimum levels. This definition must take into account of the time of year:
    • term-time
    • non-term time
    • extended working hours e.g. events, exhibitions and exam time
    • UCL closures e.g. Christmas, Easter and Bank Holidays
  • Out-of-hours: Times when safety role holder levels are below optimum levels e.g. evenings, early mornings, weekends and public holidays N.B. work conducted out-of-hours will not always be while alone

Risks associated with working alone

  • Unable to summon help as a result of injury, ill-health or an emergency
  • Unable to carry out a task safely while alone


Heads of Department must ensure that there are arrangements in place to identify and control the risks arising from work that is carried out while alone. The arrangements will include:

  • A definition of normal working hours
  • A list of departmental activities which must not be conducted while alone (see Table 2 for guidance)
  • Authorisation of routine specified lone working activities (see Table 2 for examples)
  • Procedure for authorising non-routine lone working activities

Line Managers must ensure that:

  • Non-routine lone working is avoided where possible (see Table 2 for additional controls that should be in place if such work is undertaken)
  • Time spent lone working is planned
  • Risk assessments for the work under their control indicate the additional control measures required if the work is carried out while alone
  • Measures to control risk while working alone are implemented
  • Risk assessments are reviewed

Assessing the risks

Managers must consider the following when deciding if an activity can be conducted while alone:

Individual vulnerabilities

  • Are any individuals e.g. women especially at risk when working alone?
  • Is the person medically fit to work alone? Some medical conditions make sufferers unsuitable for lone working. Managers who have concerns about an individual’s fitness for lone working should refer them to Workplace Health following completion of the Safety Critical Health Assessment form
  • Are inexperienced workers especially at risk while working alone?
  • Individuals with impaired vision, hearing or mobility
  • Individuals whose first language is not English e.g. arrangements are in place to ensure information is communicated effectively, especially emergency arrangements

Work patterns

Specific work patterns may begin during normal working hours and continue out of hours.

Location or work area

The work may be conducted in places managed by UCL, at another employer or at an external location. If the worker is peripatetic more than one work location or area may be visited on the same day.

  • Office, laboratory, workshop
  • Storeroom, plant room, cold room, clean room, interview room, server room
  • Riverbank, moorland, home of a research subject, vehicle

Work activity

If the task is to be carried out by someone working alone, the risk assessment must consider the hazards of being alone in addition to the hazards involved with the work itself (see Table 2).

Access arrangements

Arrangements to prevent unauthorised access to areas where staff work alone. Access to building or work area controlled by:

  • Security or reception staff
  • Keypad
  • Entry card

Managing the risks

Managers must ensure that:

  • The lone worker understands the risks and precautions involved in their work i.e. has enough experience to work without direct supervision
  • The lone worker has information to deal with emergencies (see Table 1) N.B. the lone worker may not be familiar with the building in which they are working

Managers should consider one or more of the following controls depending on the level of risk:

  • A start/finish time has been agreed for out-of-hours lone working
  • The lone worker informs their supervisor that work has started/finished
  • Periodic checks by the supervisor or person designated by the supervisor are made at agreed intervals e.g. hourly. Checks can be in person, by telephone (mobile or landline) or by two-way radio. Alternatively, the lone worker can contact the supervisor or person designated by the supervisor at agreed intervals N.B. ensure the means of communication works in the work location e.g. mobile phone reception is not universal
  • A procedure is in place to deal with failure to contact the lone worker at agreed intervals
  • A record is kept of the information that has been provided to individuals who work alone

Managers must review the risk assessment periodically:

  • At intervals determined by the risk assessment e.g. every 12 months or sooner
  • If something goes wrong e.g. accident or incident
  • If something changes e.g. people, equipment or location
  • Is it still necessary for the work to be conducted alone
  • Is the worker still medically fit to work alone

Control measures

Circumstances when work cannot be conducted alone

  1. Risk control measures for the activity cannot be implemented if an individual is working alone e.g. footing a ladder
  2. When emergency procedures rely on the presence of others e.g. operating emergency stop buttons, implementing/assisting spill procedures, responding to monitor alarms
  3. Some hazard specific activities must not be carried out while alone (legal requirement)
  4. Worker is under 18 years old (Young Person)

Circumstances when work could be conducted alone

 5. Emergency procedures (see Table 1) and additional control measures

Circumstances when work can be conducted alone

 6. Emergency procedures (see Table 1)

Table 1: Lone worker emergency procedures

Arrangements for normal working hours may be different or need to be supplemented when working out of hours.

Contacting security

Normal working hoursAdditional procedures for out-of-hours work
  • Ensure the lone worker has the local number for contacting UCL Security internally and if using a mobile phone (e.g. Bloomsbury Campus 222 or 0207 679 2222)
  • If work is conducted off-site e.g. fieldwork then contact Emergency Services on 999
  • In some situations it will not be practical/possible to contact UCL Security and a lone worker alarm may be appropriate. Features include an automatic alert to a pre-arranged responder, operation is discreet, activated if worker stops moving (motion sensor) worker periodic response e.g. 20 minute intervals
  • If a panic button is installed staff must know how and when to use it and what to expect as a response
  • Ensure that passenger lift alarms/telephones are responded to out-of-hours
  • Access to the building is controlled e.g. entry card
  • Consider personal security and transport arrangements when leaving the workplace late at night

Raising the alarm on discovering a fire

Normal working hoursAdditional procedures for out-of-hours work
  • As displayed on fire action notices
  • As displayed on fire action notices

Evacuation procedures

Normal working hoursAdditional procedures for out-of-hours work
  • As displayed on fire action notices
  • Ensure normal evacuation routes are available out-of-hours i.e. some routes may be locked for security reasons
  • A log book for out-of-hours lone workers to sign when they enter or leave will help the Fire Brigade or security to account for building occupants N.B. this is only effective if lone workers enter and leave by the door where the log book is located and occupants who entered prior to the commencement of the out-of-hours period sign the log book
  • On leaving the building the lone worker must report to the Fire Brigade or security staff, if in attendance

Accidents and incidents

Normal working hoursAdditional procedures for out-of-hours work
  • How to report accidents and incidents (including non-injury incidents)
  • Next day if not practical out of hours

First aid arrangements

Normal working hoursAdditional procedures for out-of-hours work
  • Location of the nearest first aid box
  • How to contact the nearest first aider
  • Ensure the nearest first aid box is available e.g. not locked away
  • Are first aiders available? Identify alternative first aid provision

Table 2: Lone worker activities guidance

ActivityReasonAdditional control meausres
Operating dangerous workshop machinery e.g. lathes, milling machines, shapers and power presses2 
Work with equipment powered off 3 phase electricity supply or other high energy source2 
At or near exposed live electricity conductors2 

Work with:

  • Large volumes of hazardous liquids e.g. corrosives, flammables 
  • Asphyxiants e.g. carbon dioxide
  • Substances that react violently e.g. explosive, toxic gas evolved
  • Decanting cryogenic substances
Use of blowlamps, gas/plasma cutting or welding equipment2 
Confined spaces e.g. storage tanks, silos, reaction vessels, enclosed drains or sewers, service tunnels3 
Young persons (under 18)4 
Lifting or moving heavy loads1 
Interviewing members of the public/research participants in their home or isolated locations where the interviewee is not vetted and/or the interviewer is vulnerable1 
Work above or near water e.g. tanks, ponds, rivers, canals etc5
  • Controls identified after a detailed assessment of local conditions.
Interviewing members of the public/research participants in their homes or isolated locations5
  • Interviewee vetted and/or interviewer not vulnerable
  • Periodic checks arranged
  • Start/finish confirmed
Class 3b lasers and above5
  • Periodic checks arranged
  • Start/finish confirmed
Working in Containment Level 3 facilities with pathogens5
  • Periodic checks arranged
  • Start/finish confirmed

Risk of violence

  • Reception work
  • Events e.g. exhibitions, social events
  • Leaving or travelling between work locations (e.g. out-of-hours)
  • Periodic checks arranged
  • Start/finish confirmed
Contractor(s) appointed by and therefore managed by the Department5
  • Periodic checks arranged
  • Start/finish confirmed
Work at height5
  • Periodic checks arranged
  • Start/finish confirmed
Undergraduate project work5
  • Periodic checks arranged
  • Start/finish confirmed

Isolated / remote locations

  • Storeroom, plant room, cold room, clean room, interview room
  • Riverbank, moorland, seashore
  • Periodic checks arranged
  • Start/finish confirmed
Checking equipment/experiments left running for extended periods (i.e. unattended)6 
Work with microscopes/analytical equipment6 
Laboratory work involving cleaning and low risk material preparation6 
Office based work6 
Maintenance of workshop machinery6
  • Machines must be isolated i.e. switched off

Last updated: Thursday, September 13, 2018