How Many Lone Workers Are Attacked Every Day?

Ima F.
May 8, 2024

Lone workers face many challenges in the workplace, particularly increased risks from both social and environmental hazards.

While environmental hazards, such as slips, trips, falls, or accidents from working at heights, are frequently addressed, the social risks facing lone workers often receive less attention. A critical example of this is the danger of being assaulted in the workplace, which is particularly common with lone workers who work with the public.

This raises an important question: how many lone workers are attacked every day?

According to figures from the British Crime Survey in 2018, around 150 lone workers are attacked every day in the UK, which amounts to 54,750 lone workers every year. This includes both physical and verbal abuse.

Furthermore, the most recent Violence at Work statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show 688,000 reported cases of violence at work in 2019/20.

It’s important to acknowledge that these statistics represent only incidents that have been officially reported, and they do not take into account the threat of violence. Many cases likely go unreported, suggesting that the true number of attacks on lone workers could be significantly higher.

Employers have a duty of care towards their workers. Therefore, it is crucial for employers to understand the specific health and safety risks faced by their employees and put effective measures in place to protect lone workers.

Before we dive into how attacks can be dealt with or prevented altogether, we should establish what lone working is, and who is most at risk of verbal and physical violence at work.

What is a Lone Worker?

The Health and Safety Executive defines lone workers as those who work by themself without close or direct supervision. An estimated 8 million people across the UK can be classed as lone workers, which is around 1 in 4 of the UK working population.

Aside from those who physically work alone, this also includes those who interact with the public without immediate nearby support of colleagues or supervisors.

Which Lone Workers Are Most At Risk of Being Attacked?

There are a significant number of risks involved with lone working, which vary based on the industry and nature of the job.

Workplace violence, including verbal and physical attacks, is a significant risk faced by lone workers who interact with the public.

Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive showed that acts of violence accounted for 8% of all non-fatal work-related injuries reported under RIDDOR in 2022/23. This is the fourth most common cause of work-related accidents leading to non-fatal injuries.

The lone workers who face a higher risk of workplace violence are:

  • Retail workers

  • Carers and healthcare professionals

  • Cleaners, particularly those working at night

  • Social workers

  • Security staff

  • Police officers

  • Delivery drivers

  • Train and bus drivers

  • Real estate agents

How many lone workers are attacked every day security

How Many Lone Workers in The Retail Sector Are Attacked Every Day?

Retail workers are not always associated with lone working, but many often find themselves in situations where they must work without direct supervision, especially in smaller stores or during off-peak hours.

The British Retail Consortium’s 2024 Crime Survey showed a significant increase in the number of attacks on retail workers.

The survey reported:

  • 1,306 incidents of violence and abusive behaviour per day towards retail workers in 2022/23, a 50% increase from 2021/22.

  • Over 475,000 incidents of violence and abusive behaviour during the year 2022/23.

How Many NHS Workers Are Attacked Every Day?

Healthcare professionals are also not typically associated with lone working, but many frequently face situations where they must provide care alone, especially in community settings or during home visits.

Results from the NHS Staff Survey show that NHS workers face an alarming amount of attacks:

  • 14.6% of NHS workers claimed to have experienced at least one incident of physical violence from members of the public during 2022.

  • 27.7% of NHS workers claimed to have experienced at least one incident of harassment, bullying or abuse from members of the public during 2022.

  • 30.5% of ambulance workers experienced at least one incident of physical violence from members of the public in 2022.

Common Hazards of Lone Working

Despite the slightly altered nature of their day-to-day roles, lone workers face many of the same hazards as non-lone workers.

In addition to acts of violence, the four other most common causes of physical harm for lone workers are:

  • Slips, trips and falls on the same level

  • Handling, lifting or carrying

  • Being struck by a moving object

  • Falls from height

The main difference is that lone workers are less able to call for help when they need it. If being threatened, burgled, or otherwise made to feel unsafe, without the appropriate tools there is little an employee can do to de-escalate the situation.

Those working on the road also face increased danger from issues like loss of communication with supervisors, breaking down at a time when assistance is hard to come by, or falling ill without co-worker there to raise the alert. 

Organisations must introduce measures and technology in order to counteract these vulnerabilities for lone workers, or else they will be left unprotected.

Construction lone worker

How to Protect Your Lone Workers

We believe that 54,750 lone workers being attacked each year is 54,750 too many. This alarming figure underscores the critical need for robust safety measures in your lone worker policy.

Under the law, it is required that employers take practical steps to mitigate the risks inherent to their lone workers’ roles. Employers should perform a detailed risk assessment to identify the areas in which additional measures need to be in place.

The increased risk of being threatened or attacked is something that must be carefully considered when performing a risk assessment for your lone workers, especially if they regularly work in secluded or remote areas, at night, or have significant contact with members of the public.

To help identify specific hazards faced by your lone workers, download our free lone worker risk assessment template.

Lone Worker Risk Assessment Template

Despite the startling numbers, there are a few things that both employers and lone workers themselves can do to limit the fallout from an attack directed at an employee. These include:

  • Training in self-defence, how to deal with aggression and de-escalation tactics.

  • Regular check-ins on workers’ mental health and wellbeing.

  • Trying where possible to avoid being alone with just one other member of the public.

  • Introducing lone worker safety technology.

Vatix’s lone worker safety solutions help lone workers stay safe in several ways:

  • SOS buttons that can be pressed on a personal safety device or mobile app whenever a safety issue arises.

  • Man Down sensors that detect when a user has fallen.

  • Discreet alarm activation so as not to escalate the situation further.

  • Choosing a codeword or phrase that would be understood by the alerted contact when the device has been activated. If the phrase is said, the operator knows to dial 999, for example.

  • User profiles can be set up with securely stored medical information and identifying features that can be life-saving should emergency services need to be called to the scene.

With thousands of lone workers being attacked every year, employers must do everything they can to shield these employees from the physical and mental harm that is caused by feeling unsafe.

Enhancing training can be a vital part of the effort to minimise risk, but organisations must also consider investing in technology like lone worker alarms to ensure their safety and peace of mind.

How Can We Help?

To find out more about how Vatix can help your business protect vulnerable lone workers, or if you are interested in our services, contact us.

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