What you need to know about working alone
By Andrew Hobbs
Manning the store at night, making visits to a remote location or simply working from home – there are a number of reasons your employees might be working alone and far from anyone who could render assistance in an emergency.
Being isolated from other people can present a number of serious workplace risks – with poor access to emergency assistance and potential exposure to violence chief among them.
Even some workplace activities, which might normally be considered reasonably safe, can become more dangerous when they are performed alone.
After all, no-one is immune from a workplace accident, no matter how trusted or senior they are.
Identifying the risks of working alone
If you have employees who work off-site, attend work before or after hours or have any other reason to be out of sight and hearing of another person while at work, you must take steps to manage these risks.
You should also ensure that any workers who are working alone do not suffer from any pre-existing medical conditions that might increase their risk.
But before you can identify adequate controls, it is crucial to understand the risks associated with the work. Factors likely to influence these risks include:
- the length of time the worker will be working alone;
- the communication systems available to the worker;
- the time of day the work is to be carried out;
- the location and nature of the work;
- the worker’s skills and capabilities; and
- whether the workplace has emergency plans, procedures and equipment that the worker knows about.
Getting those risks under control
Once you have identified the risks involved, you must introduce appropriate control measures to reduce those risks – knowing that a combination of many controls is most likely to ensure the health and safety of the worker.
Start by creating a working alone policy – which stipulates check-in requirements and outlines the procedures for reporting on and responding to an emergency.
That policy might also identify certain jobs that should not be carried out alone, or whether specialised training is required for any tasks.
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