Safety Services


Lone Working

Lone working is 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.

UCL mandatory requirements for lone working

Heads of Department must ensure that their written arrangements include:

  • a definition of normal working hours;
  • a list of Departmental activities which must not be conducted while alone; 
  • authorisation of routine specified lone working activities; 
  • procedure for authorising non-routine lone working activities.

What are the risks of lone working?

Lone workers face the same hazards at work as anyone else, but there is a greater risk of these hazards causing harm as they may not have anyone to help or support them if things go wrong. 

A lone worker may be:

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

Assessing the risks

Before any lone working takes place, the health and safe risks must be considered and assessed.

> Guidance on completing a suitable risk assessment.

Some of the factors to consider when conducting a lone working risk assessment are:

Individual capabilities
  • Any underlying or temporary medical conditions. Some medical conditions may make workers unsuitable for lone working. Individuals should complete the 'Safety Critical Health Assessment Form'.to determine their suitability for lone working.
  • The experience of the workers - inexperienced staff may be unsuitable for lone working.
  • Individuals with impaired vision, hearing or mobility.
  • Individuals with language or cultural barriers. 
  • Pregnant or disabled individuals.
Work patterns

Specific work patterns may increase the risks when lone working as they could take place outside of normal working hours. These include:

  • shift work
  • continuous experiments
  • flexible working
  • working at home

The location of the work may increase the risks associated with lone working, such as:

  • in places not managed or controlled by UCL
  • an external location open to interaction with the public
  • rural or isolated locations
  • entering someone elses home for research
  • confined spaces

If the worker is peripatetic more than one work location or area may be visited on the same day.

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.

> Guidance on activities which must not be conducted while alone.

Access arrangements

The arrangements to prevent unauthorised access will help determine whether it is suitable for staff to work alone. Access to building or work area can be controlled by:

  • security or reception staff
  • keypad
  • entry card 
Emergency arrangements

The arragements in the event of an emergency must be clear and these must be in place before any lone working can commence. The factors to consider are:

  • first aid arrangments - is there enough cover and how does the lone worker request it?
  • accidents / incidents - if the worker suffers harm how will others know? How will this be reported?
  • emergency evacuation - are there enough fire evacuation marshals? Will all areas be sweeped including where the lone worker is working?
  • security - will the worker be able to contact security? 

> Further guidance can be found in table 1 of UCL's lone working standard.

Managing the risk

To reduce the risks associated with lone working, the points below should be considered: 

  • Ensure the lone worker understands the risks and precautions involved in their work i.e. has enough experience to work without direct supervision.
  • Ensure the lone worker has information to deal with emergencies. The lone worker may not be familiar with the building in which they are working.
  • Ensure there is a 'check-in' procedure so other parties are aware of a lone worker presence on site. This can be done by alerting security / reception, your line manager, another colleague or a combination of those listed. A method of communication and at what intervals should be agreed with the other party.
  • Have robust emergency arrangements in place so that they are not compromised for a lone worker. 
  • Reduce the amount of lone working that takes place out of hours to the absolute minimum.
  • Regularly review whether the work activity is still necessary to be conducted alone.
  • Review if the lone workers are still medically fit to work alone.


Download the guidance documents below for further information on lone working at UCL. 

Personal Safety when Lone Working and Travelling

    Last updated: Monday, November 30, 2020

    Further information

    UCL Guidance

    Risk Assessment
    UCLs Worklife Balance Policy
    Safety critical health assessment

    Supplementary Guidance

    Working Alone (HSE)
    Live Life Safe (Suzy Lampugh Trust)