Natural England - Lone working

Lone working

For many people, part of the pleasure of being out in the countryside or volunteering is being alone. However, if you have an accident, your safety could be at risk - especially if there is a long delay before anyone realises that you haven't returned.

In addition to the delay in realising you are missing, it could take hours to discover your location, especially on a large reserve or if you have been visiting a number of bat roost locations. A minor accident could develop in to a serious incident if you are not found quickly.

Some volunteers regularly carry out their voluntary role alone. The definition 'lone working' applies to situations where volunteers are travelling alone, volunteering alone in the field or at site bases, at their own home or the home of a member of the public (in the case of a batwarden).

Volunteers should not be working alone if a risk assessment shows that the task is potentially too hazardous to be carried out alone. Some sites may require volunteers to carry out their roles in pairs - the Site Manager will inform you if this is the case.

Volunteers working in isolated locations without immediate access to a telephone must carry a mobile phone at all times and ensure that it is in good working order. Some sites have very limited mobile telephone coverage and in these circumstance you should ensure you adhere to any lone working arrangements set out by staff.

'Buddy' systems

A 'buddy' system is a simple way of tracking your location and your expected return time and is normally operated in pairs. A buddy may be a colleague at the same office or reserve, or a partner at home.

When working alone, you must observe the following rules:

  • Ensure that someone (your buddy) knows where you are going

  • Let them know when you are expected to return

  • Make sure your buddy knows what to do if you do not return on time or if you do not call to say why you are delayed. Inform your buddy of the non-return procedures shown below and provide them with any relevant telephone numbers.

  • Volunteer Bat Wardens should follow the alternative procedure: (48kb)pdf document

Non-return procedures

If you do not return or contact your buddy by the expected time they should take the following action:

  • Telephone you on your mobile (or at the office where you have been working/at your last known destination)

  • Continue to try to make contact at intervals for one hour

  • After one hour, contact the Site Manager/Area Manager (or any member of staff who has been designated as the contact for incidents involving missing persons). If that person is not available, the buddy should contact another member of staff in the team and request their assistance. You should give your buddy at least one emergency telephone number for contacting staff outside of office hours (including weekends)

  • The buddy and the staff member should go together to the last known destination of the volunteer and, as far as is practicable, check the site.

  • If this does not result in contact with the volunteer within two hours of the expected return time, the circumstances must be reported to the Divisional Control Room Sergeant of the relevant police force who will implement their emergency procedures.

  • The kind of information that will be asked for to assist with searching for a missing individual would be: What do they look like? What were they wearing? And, what is the make, colour and registration number of the car they were in?

You might like to print out the information above to give to your buddy. Write down your mobile telephone number and all the relevant land-line and mobile telephone numbers for your team (staff members and other volunteers).

The same procedures for lone working apply if you are alone in reserve offices or workshops, travelling on public transport or in a private vehicle or when visiting members of the public in their own homes. Some teams operate their own lone working systems; you should ensure that you are familiar with any procedures which have been adopted locally. You will receive information on lone working during your induction, but you must ensure that you keep yourself and your buddy up to date with procedures and with correct contact telephone numbers.