My company currently employs me on a rotating shift pattern; days, nights and afternoons. On the day and afternoon shift there is always a team leader or supervisor present with keys to the padlocked gates in the carpark.

Our manager has recently ordered senior staff to keep the gates locked outside of office hours due to security risks etc which is understandable. However, when I am working a week of nights, we (me and the 2 other employees on site) do not have access to leave the site after midnight when the gates are locked.

Essentially, there are three of us locked inside the premises with no access to get out of the gates if anything happened (fire, accident) and thus no access for emergency services to gain access either. The other two shifts have a chargehand as part of their team with a set of keys each. My shift does not for some reason.

The building itself is not locked, we can go outside but we cannot leave site for whatever reason, whether it be to go for break elsewhere or to escape the premises in an emergency.

We have expressed our concerns on this matter to our employer, but they insist its within reason to do this, even our health and safety manager confirms it's ok; we are not convinced however.

How can I best go about resolving this situation? Does it make sense to look for legislation about this problem?

  • 14
    What does your local fire-department think? Nov 3, 2016 at 19:47
  • 5
    Not sure where you're based, but if in the United States, this seems like an OSHA violation for sure. Nov 3, 2016 at 19:48
  • 1
    Within the locked gated perimeter are you able to access an area that would be safe in case of emergency. Most organizations that I've been part of have a muster point as part of the fire policy. If you are locked away from the muster point that is a major concern, if the muster point is within the fenced area then the concern regarding this is much lower.
    – Myles
    Nov 3, 2016 at 20:05
  • 6
    Wages are negotiable, safety is non-negotiable.
    – emory
    Nov 3, 2016 at 22:06
  • 7
    I don't have any legal or moral advice, but I suggest bringing bolt cutters into work. Tell your employer you have them in case you need to leave when the gate is locked.
    – robert
    Nov 3, 2016 at 22:29

3 Answers 3


I'd advise that you get your health and safety manager to walk you through what happens if someone on your shift needs an ambulance given there is not a chargehand with a set of keys. Sit down and go through the process step by step. They may not understand the problem or you may not understand some additional protections that may be in place.

Open communication of concerns and understanding of procedures will go much farther than finding legislation that they may or may not be following.

Walk into the conversation well prepared. Prepare an example situation, then go through what actions you are expected to take. Make notes, if anything seems impossible don't treat it as a "Gotcha!" just ask how that barrier would be resolved. Use actual co-workers names. Remember that you are in a collaborative effort to understand so keep away from adversarial body language or speech. Stand up and act out your actions if you can do it without being hokey.

For example: I find Bob on the floor complaining of chest pain, let's go through what I'm expected to do 1. First step is I call an ambulance, correct?, 2. Next I page Charlie, right? 3. I send Charlie out to the gate to meet the ambulance immediately or wait until they arrive to send Charlie out? 4. Ambulance arrives 5. Charlie meets them at the gate to escort them to Bob and I, how does Charlie get them through the gate? 6. Charlie escorts them from the gate to Bob and I...

  • 8
    Also ask what to do if there is an external emergency such as injury or illness of a spouse or child. Nov 3, 2016 at 22:12
  • 2
    Our H&S manager is known to be a bit of a joke when it comes to these matters. As we have expressed our concerns and disagreement several times over the last few weeks I thought i'd try and find some official documentation to present to him regarding the matter. But yes, i think you're right that we should go through the steps with him so both parties are 100% clear on the concerns and procedures in place. Thanks for your response
    – Damien R
    Nov 3, 2016 at 22:45
  • 3
    I like this answer because it avoids challenging the manager. Instead, it is a matter of making sure you understand proper procedures in situations in which you will have to act quickly. Nov 3, 2016 at 23:17
  • 2
    @DamienR If the method described in this answer does not work, you can always anonymously contact the authorities (the helpline mentioned in the other answer should be able to tell you which authorities). At that point it's not you who has to explain to your H&S manager why there is a problem. It's the H&S manager who has to explain to the authorities why there isn't a problem.
    – Peter
    Nov 4, 2016 at 16:24

Based on the UK tag, you can call the ACAS helpline

They provide free "help and advice for workers and employers on rights and obligations at work."

  • 1
    As its the UK I would call the local fire service and your MP and possibly the local press (anonymously) Also the Grenfell fire inquiry is running so locking workers in will get a lot of attention your boss and the business owners had better hope there immigration status is 100% perfect other wise they may well be in trouble Jun 5, 2018 at 0:29

Not to minimize your problem but if you can escape to far side of the parking lot then you could probably survive a fire. A fire truck would have bolt cutters.

That said unless you are in a third word country this is likely a safety violation. Probably also an employment violation.

Talk to the fire department and employment commission.

  • 2
    Our fire assembly point is at the gates which are locked. My concern is not so much regarding the case of fire, but if one of us had a major accident the emergency services (ambulance) would not have access to the premises as none of us hold a key to the gates.
    – Damien R
    Nov 3, 2016 at 20:07
  • 4
    Not minimizing the problem but if there is an accident tell 911 the gate is locked and they need to send a fire truck with bolt cutters.
    – paparazzo
    Nov 3, 2016 at 20:11
  • 5
    The OP is also being prevented from responding to family emergencies and anything which might require a complete evacuation form the area. I personally wouldn't be happy with the idea that "you could probably survive a fire" by getting to the gate when I could almost certainly survive a fire by getting a mile away.
    – brhans
    Nov 3, 2016 at 20:41
  • 2
    -1. A fire truck may have bolt cuttrs, but you have entirely ignored two significant issues. Unless ambulances and common vehicles in your area routinely also carry bolt cutters.
    – user53718
    Nov 3, 2016 at 22:22
  • 4
    Why is everyone just sticking to fires, other weather events, like tornados hurricanes and floods are all situations where 8-12 hours can change a lot
    – Donald
    Nov 3, 2016 at 23:58

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .