Identifying the UK's five million hidden lone workers

Identifying the UK's five million hidden lone workers

Published March 15, 2024

2 minute read


Identifying any lone workers in your organisation is easy - right? 

Actually, it's not as simple as you think. 

Research shows that 64% of UK employees who regularly work without close contact or supervision would not consider themselves a lone worker.

Nine out of ten respondents who took part in the Lone Worker Landscape Report stated they are working away from colleagues for three or more days per week, and yet, more than half of those don’t see themselves as a ‘lone worker’. 

The UK's 5 million hidden lone workers

Based on the findings of the Lone Worker Landscape Report, there are around 5 million 'hidden' lone workers in the UK. 

If staff don't see themselves as lone workers, they may not take their safety or vulnerability as seriously as they should. And if you don't see them as lone workers, you may not be giving them the protection they need. 

Lone workers can be more vulnerable to harm than supervised staff because any risks are faced alone. With no one to raise the alarm in an emergency, lone workers can struggle to get the help they need, or worse; get no help at all. 

Lone workers can also be seen as an easy target for violence and aggression, especially those who work in public-facing roles, or those who visit clients alone. 

The HSE has specific guidance on how to keep your lone workers safe - but before you can put the correct safety procedures in place, you need to accurately identify all lone workers in your organisation.

How can I identify my hidden lone workers (and keep them safe?)

Some lone workers are easy to spot, such as security guards working alone at night, or a lone engineer working in a remote area. But for many roles, lone working doesn't always mean completely alone.  

The HSE defines a lone worker as anyone who works without close, or direct supervision. With this definition, the number of lone working staff in most organisations grows considerably.

If an employee cannot be seen or heard by a colleague, they are a lone worker – whether that is for all or part of their working day. This also includes staff who work from home.

When identifying lone workers in your organisation, it is important to consider ‘hidden lone workers’ in situations which may be overlooked, such as:

  • Those working on the same site but out of sight and sound of a colleague
  • Colleagues working alone in different parts of a building
  • Employees left alone for periods of time while a colleague takes a break
  • A single employee working late after everyone else has left the worksite
  • Anyone working alone but alongside members of the public or in populated locations
  • Staff travelling alone during work hours
  • Staff members who work from home

Ensure every employee gets home safely;
join us for our expert webinar 


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Author Helen Down

Helen has worked within the health and safety industry for nearly a decade and has a background in growth marketing within the SaaS space. Throughout her career, she has written extensively about health and safety, risk, legislation, and lone working.

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