Lone Workers Policy


PSS recognises that Volunteer Supporters are sometimes required to work by themselves for periods of time without close or direct supervision, in the community, in isolated work areas and out of hours.

PSS also recognises it has an obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 for the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees including volunteers. These responsibilities apply equally to those workers that for whatever reasons work alone.

This document will concentrate on the practicalities of minimising risk to the women who use our service and to all Volunteer Supporters in various situations.

Scope and Purpose of the Policy

This policy is provided for the use of all PSS Volunteer Supporters in their day-to-day work. The policy applies to all situations involving lone working arising in connection with the duties and activities of all volunteers.

The purpose of this policy is to acknowledge the inherent risks involved in lone working and to provide guidance in order protect all volunteers so far as is reasonably practicable from the risks of lone working.

These procedures should be used to complement the Statement of Policy on Health and Safety and the Confidentiality Policy.

Any concerns regarding lone working should be raised with the Support Coordinator or Chair.

Procedural Guidance

Definition of Lone Workers

For lone workers to work safely it is important that there is a clear and shared understanding of what constitutes lone working. There can for example be lone working when: -

You are undertaking a session in a private space although other people may be in the building, such as a hospital room

  • You are visiting a woman in her home
  • You are transporting a woman
  • You are working outside core office hours
  • You are facilitating a group

A useful “working” definition is: -

When you are working in any situation in which your ability to summon assistance is impaired.

Assessment of Risk

The nature of the work undertaken by PSS, combined with the dispersed geographical location of the women supported means that a on occasion volunteering may involve lone working. In view of the complex nature of many of the life situations of women using PSS services, it is apparent there is the potential of a risk of harm to volunteers. It is therefore essential that as far as possible, the Support Coordinator and Volunteers strive to identify the specific risks posed by individuals and under what circumstances they are likely to occur.

  • Prior to arranging any appointment it is important to assess the risk posed by the woman, this assessment will include any knowledge of the risk factors about the woman [e.g. mental health/substance misuse etc.] plus any situational factors that may affect worker safety [e.g. timing of appointment].
  • It is important to remember that risk is not static, it changes [can increase and decrease] and therefore workers must risk assess before every contact with a woman and make appropriate arrangements for contact based on the new risk assessment.


Confidentiality is vital for the safety of volunteers and women accessing services at PSS.

  • Workers should not give their home address, to anyone using the PSS service and are advised to use their first names only.
  • Confidentiality is offered within the charity. If any volunteer has any concerns about the woman, they should talk to the Volunteer Coordinator or Chair.

Outreach and Community Work

Accompaniment to another Agency

When it is necessary to accompany a woman to another agency, such as the doctors/hospital it is possible that boundaries can be less clear. It is essential to remember that this is a professional relationship and to remember to abide by all PSS policies and procedures.

Face to Face Support at another Venue

  • Where it is necessary to meet someone face to face a risk assessment must be undertaken and a safety plan formulated prior to the visit.
  • Volunteer Supporters must share the risk assessment and safety plan with the Volunteer Coordinator prior to the visit. The safety plan should include the timings of the visit and the venue.
  • The volunteer is responsible for ensuring that the appointed person knows what time the appointment should end and an agreement must be made as to what action will be taken should the volunteer not check in at the agreed time.
  • Violence and aggressive behaviour towards workers or women accessing our service is unacceptable please see appendix 1.

Home Visits

  • A full risk assessment must be undertaken as to the safety and appropriateness of a home visit. Home visits should not be undertaken if the risk is considered to be too high and it is not possible to put in place procedures to decrease the risk.
  • Home visits should only be made with the express consent of the Volunteer Coordinator.

Safety Precautions

  • Parking – Be aware of personal safety; make sure you have left your car secure and parked a little distance from the property you are visiting. Keep your car keys within easy reach i.e. in your pocket rather than in the bottom of your bag. Ensure your car is parked facing the direction you which to go in when you leave.
  • Explain confidentiality and, if appropriate, request that you are able to work without interruptions
  • Try to sit somewhere near to your exit and so you can see the door.
  • Keep your telephone within easy access.
  • Be aware of others present in the building.
  • Be aware of any recreational drugs or alcohol being used. If drugs or alcohol are being consumed explain that work cannot continue and leave. Call the woman to arrange a further appointment.
  • Place yourself in a position where you can leave easily. If you feel uncomfortable about any aspect of working in this environment or with this person in this location, make apologies and leave.
  • Trust your intuition and instincts.
  • When you have left the property check in with the nominated person. If, for some reason, you are delayed explain that you need to let your nominated person know this and phone them with a new departure time.
  • Violence and aggressive behaviour towards workers or women accessing our service is unacceptable please see appendix 1.
  • Volunteers are not required to undergo DBS checks due to the nature of the work.
  • Volunteers should not be left unsupervised with children of sufferers when working as a volunteer for the charity. 

Working Within Groups (group support/training/support groups)

  • Ideally there should always be two people facilitating/leading a group.
  • A group agreement/rules should be established where possible the group should decide upon these rules. These should include: Confidentiality; Respect for differences and experiences; Challenging the idea not the person; Choice about sharing; Sensitivity to others; No violence either verbal or physical. These rules help the group to govern itself and keep everyone safe.
  • The group facilitators should make it clear to the group how they will proceed should any individual(s) break group rules.
  • The facilitators should ensure that the Volunteer Coordinator or Chair knows where they are intending to run the group and should ensure that the venue chosen is safe and confidential.
  • In an emergency situation one facilitator should stay with the group. If the situation becomes unsafe the group session should be ended.
  • Violence and aggressive behaviour towards volunteers or women accessing our service is unacceptable please see appendix 1.


If you have experienced a traumatic situation with a woman you are supporting it is very important that you debrief. Speak to your Support Coordinator, Chair or one of the PSS Trustees.

Some Points to Remember

Self Defence

  • The law allows for a person to defend themselves against violent people.

Reasonable Force

  • The term reasonable force is an extremely ambiguous one. Reasonable or reasonableness can only legally be determined within a court of law.
  • Health and Safety at work etc. Act 1974
  • Employers have a duty of care to protect volunteers and employees from violence. Volunteers have a duty to take up training opportunities and adhere to policies aimed at keeping them safe.

Emotional Health

There can be risks connected to the emotions and the processes of a supportive/advocacy relationship. Volunteers should raise any issues or concerns regarding Lone Working, the behaviour of women using our services and/or their suitability for receiving support from PSS with the Supportr Coordinator or Chair.

Appendix 1

Guidance on Dealing with Violence at Work

  1. Violent and aggressive situations may span a range of seriousness and potential for danger and it will depend on the judgement of the volunteer present at the time as to how the situation is best dealt with. The following guidelines should assist volunteers in responding to incidents but each case should be dealt with as deemed appropriate by the volunteer involved at the time.

  2. Potentially violent and aggressive situations will include incidents where a women using our services, a partner or any other person:

    • Verbally threatens or intimidates volunteers or others

    • Physically threatens or intimidates volunteers or others

    • Attempts to assault volunteers or others physically

    • Carries out a physical assault on volunteer or others

    • Brings a weapon onto the premises (Whether or not its use is attempted)

  3. If a potentially violent or aggressive situation develops, volunteers should take the following steps:

    • Quickly assess the incident in terms of whether it is safe to intervene. If it appears unsafe to intervene (for instance, the aggressor has a weapon or is otherwise unapproachable and/or the volunteer is working alone and feels unsafe) they must contact the Police by dialling 999 and summoning emergency assistance. If possible, the volunteer should ensure that they and other volunteers and service users present could be safe until the Police arrive. This may be possible by moving into an area which is lockable or evacuating the premises.

    • If it appears safe to intervene, attempt to calm the aggressor down and get them to start talking about what the problem is. If there is more than one aggressor (for example where a physical fight has occurred or appears imminent), volunteers should work together to separate the aggressors and attempt to calm them down in separate locations if possible.

    • Reassure other service users that the situation is under control and that they are safe, once the immediate situation has been dealt with by volunteers or the Police. If a service user has been injured in the incident, volunteers present will need to ensure that they can receive emergency medical treatment if required.

    • Debrief the volunteer involved. The Volunteer Coordinator or Chair will need to carry out this debriefing.

    • They must:

    • Check whether the volunteers have sustained any injuries and seek medical attention for them if they have.

    • Record details of the incident with the volunteer, including details of any injuries.

    • Assess whether there is a need to report the incident to the Police if they have not already been involved.

    • Support the volunteer to come to terms with the incident if they have been upset or shaken by it.

    • Review and update the Risk Assessment of any service user/s involved to ensure that they fully reflect the learning from the current incident.

    • Review the response to the incident as a way of learning from it. This will include assessing whether policies and procedures provided adequate guidance, whether they were followed correctly, and identifying any improvements needed to ensure safety in the future such as additional volunteer training or a review of the operational framework of the volunteer project.



"You've been there for me and I've not felt alone."

Did you know?

Some women experienced suicidal thoughts after feeling isolated, depressed, anxious and unable to care for themselves and their families