How Safe Are You When You Work Alone?

Feb 4, 2022

October 2021

HCPG has a question. When you work alone, how safe do you think you are? We are here to help you review this.


How often do you think about your own safety when you are working alone?

Do you risk assess only:

  • When you start to feel unsafe, or
  • When you get goosebumps, or
  • When the hairs on the back of your neck start to stand on end?
  • Before the first assessment (and it all goes well so you just forget about it thereafter?)


Would you know who could put you at risk?

Would you always recognise an individual who could or would put you at risk?

Or are you thinking about a stereotypical person based on your unconscious bias?

This could be dangerous; in general, many people who are harmed knew of the person and therefore, did not expect anything to happen?

In the year ending March 2020 the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), stated the most common perpetrators of violent crime were acquaintances (43%, 528,000 offences), with 41% of offences (511,000) perpetrated by a stranger, and the remaining 16% (200,000 offences) categorised as domestic violence. *

Whilst we hear and appreciate that most physical and verbal assaults in healthcare are in hospitals and A & E departments, we cannot become complacent.

There are simple steps that can be taken to help minimise the risk.

Where to start?

Start by risk assessing the environment in which you work irrespective of the service you offer i.e. it could be a clinic room in a department or an area used for a domiciliary service.

All areas offer differing risks, and all areas offer opportunities to minimise risks.


Wherever you are, consider a few simple questions:

  • If it is a first visit, how do you know the person who has just arrived is a patient and not a potential perpetrator?
  • How would you and can you escape if you had to?
  • If you are in a room, is the patient treated between you and the door? If so, can you change this?
  • If the patient collapses between you and the door, could you get out to get help quickly?
  • If you are in the home, is the door closest to you or is there another exit if needed?
  • How would you summon help?
  • Who knows when to expect you to finish the clinic or visit?
  • What would they do if you did not check in as expected?
  • Am I slightly uncomfortable and if so, do I need a chaperone?
  • As therapists gut feel still exists, if you are not sure, would a cautious approach be better?


Scoring your risk assessment

When you have completed your risk assessment, score the risk using a risk matrix and then put as many checks as possible in place to mean the subsequent risk assessment shows a decreased score.

Risk matrices are widely available and are usually colour coded red (high risk), amber (moderate risk) and green (low risk). **

Working alone scenarios often score in the red area until the checks are put in place to lower the score.

Have you completed your risk assessment and matrix, if you are offering a service where someone works alone?


Listening devices and points to consider

You may want to consider having a listening device in your clinic that triggers a response from the emergency services when a code word is issued.

There are many options on the market that can do this, but you must be cognisant of the GDPR rules and regulations.

Patients must be made aware of the presence of such devices and if they are active.

The risk assessment also needs to justify their use.

When working in the community it may be worth considering apps for example What3words that can in the event of an emergency provide your location to the emergency services.


Wondering what to do next?

Don’t wait until you need to do this, take a little time to:

  • Write your policy.
  • Complete and score your risk assessments.
  • If necessary or possible, make changes to the risk assessment to decrease the score.
  • Ensure the policy is linked to the risk assessment documentation.
  • Embed the process within your practice/clinic/team.


Be prepared and set a date for an audit to show when and how you will review the situation to show you have been responsive in acting.

Proactive processes are much better than having to make a reactive one.


We can help you work through the steps above

We have policies, templates, information on listening devices and apps to make things easier

for you including a Lone Working Policy available to buy in our store.


Let’s work alone in safety – it’s for everyone’s benefit.



* Crime survey for England and Wales 2020.

** Protecting lone workers HSE.

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