Your practice has a responsibility to carry out a risk assessment if you work alone, or if you have to travel alone. Lone workers are described as ‘someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision’.

You may be required to work alone because:

   you are required to work in a separate part of the practice

   you work outside of normal working hours

   the workforce is very small

   you are required to be mobile and work outside of the practice.

A risk assessment for lone working should be made irrespective of whether you work alone every day or just occasionally.

What are the hazards?

The hazards that you could encounter include:

   violence and abuse (normally from other people)

   injuries caused by animals that are being treated

   accidents where the consequences are worse if there’s no immediate assistance, e.g. slips, trips and falls, electrocution or working with dangerous substances

   accidents that result from lone working, e.g. attempting to lift an animal alone when help is needed

   long-term health issues resulting from your being isolated, not being supervised, or your lack of knowledge or training

   driving for long periods of time or taking telephone calls whilst driving.

Are particular people at risk?

As well as considering the hazards generally, a risk assessment should consider whether you may be at risk because:

   you have health issues

   you are a disabled person

   you are young or inexperienced

   you are pregnant

   your first language is not English.

Your practice should not make assumptions about what you can or cannot do and they should consult with you to assess the risks that could affect your ability to work alone.

Eliminating or reducing lone working

Your practice should look at whether a particular task can be completed by one person or whether it is more practical to have the task carried out by two people? Whilst it is not always economical, your practice should ensure that there is someone else nearby whom you can contact should it be necessary.

Reducing the amount of time spent on lone working

Your practice could co-ordinate an overlap between yourself and another colleague to be in the same area, so that if a hazard becomes apparent then there are two people available to overcome the problem.

It could also adopt a ‘buddy’ system to reduce the effects of lone working, so that if you are away from the practice you could telephone a specified person at the end of each day to confirm they have arrived home safely.

Physical barriers may help in some situations to reduce the danger of violence, although in some situations barriers can create tension and increase the likelihood of violence and abuse.

Controlling lone working

Permits to work are commonly used to control more hazardous work, which could include a ‘sign-off’ from your manager to indicate that they are aware that you will be working alone for a specific period of time.

If the correct equipment is provided, it should be used correctly – for instance, if you are working alone you should use an appropriate climbing aid to reach a high shelf rather than stand on an office chair.


If you are working alone you should receive training on:

   how to plan and carry out a job safely using the appropriate equipment

   how to decide when to simply walk or drive away from a situation

   how to recognise danger and take appropriate action.

   who to contact if there is a problem and they need assist

   some emergency first aid. 

For further support with this or any other HR issue, BVNA members can call the BVNA Members Advisory Service Helpline on 01822 870270


Nicky Ackerley BA(HONS)

Nicky Ackerley HR Support is owned by Nicky Ackerley who has a BA (Hons) Business Studies Degree, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and who has been a practising HR manager for over 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA Members Advisory Service (formerly known as the Industrial Relations Service) since it began in 2002.

Veterinary Nursing Journal • VOL 29 • May 2014 •