Nov 03 2020

Take care when lone working

As we move into the colder weather and the darker months it felt like a good opportunity to remind each other of the dangers of lone working whilst volunteering.


The chances of someone getting into trouble while working alone are tiny. However; The Woodland Trust recognises that the outcomes for lone workers can be catastrophic. Minor injuries can become life threatening if the injured person cannot get help and lone workers are easy targets for crime.


It’s important that lone workers avoid paranoia but at the same time respect the risks they face.


Lone working will never be intrinsically safe; where possible everyone who works for or with the Woodland Trust is advised to avoid it.


Where it needs to happen, the lone worker themselves must take responsibility for assessing and managing the risks they face.


Where lone working cannot be avoided, the following information is aimed at supporting Woodland Trust Staff and Volunteers in managing their work safely.


One of the most important aspects of looking after lone workers is ensuring that:


  • Someone (who cares) knows where you are and will raise the alarm if you do not return
  • That person maintains reasonable contact with you
  • The alarm is raised effectively if you go missing


This is known as the Buddy system. Buddy systems do not need to be complicated – create one that suits you using mobile phones, diaries or even a post-it-note on the fridge. The form it takes does not really matter, providing it works and you trust it.


The Buddy may be a fellow volunteer, friend, spouse, partner or relation – the important thing is that they can be trusted to raise the alarm if things go wrong. As a minimum they must know:


  • Where you are going?
  • If you are meeting someone, who are you are meeting?
  • How are you travelling? (what’s your vehicle registration)
  • When you set off and when you expect to return
  • The number of the mobile phone you are carrying
  • Who they should call if they cannot get in touch with you and become worried. (this should include the numbers for local Woodland Trust Managers and Staff)


Set up a buddy system that gives you confidence someone will miss you, and be able to start a search for you effectively if you don’t come home.


Make sure your Buddy has the numbers and confidence they need to help you if need be.


Please read the attached guidance for more guidance on lone working and if you have any questions please contact the National Volunteering Team or your Volunteer Manager. 


Sarah Shaw

Volunteer Journey Officer

The National Volunteering Team

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