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Working Alone or in Isolation

| Chaizong Lor

What is the danger?

While it is not always hazardous to work alone, it can be when other circumstances are present. Whether a situation is high or low risk will depend on a number of scenarios. When an employee works alone or in isolation, there is a need to:

  1. Spot the hazard: Identify tasks where workers may have to perform work while working alone or in isolation.
  2. Assess the risk: Train workers in identifying and assessing hazards to which there may be personal exposure or safety concerns.
  3. Find a safer way: Implement measures to reduce, control, or eliminate hazards and try using alternative means of performing the work.

Identify Controls

Safe Lone Worker

When considering ways to lower the risks of those working alone, the risk management process should be undertaken in a methodical way. This involves:

  • identifying hazards a worker may be exposed to,
  • assessing the risks of injury or harm arising from the hazards, (This involves considering the chance or likelihood of a hazard occurring and, if it does occur, the extent of any injury or harm), and
  • implementing control measures to eliminate or reduce the risks of injury or harm, and ensure they are monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Risk controls may include engineering controls, administrative controls, and Personal Protective Equipment.  It may take a combination of controls to minimize the risks effectively.

Engineering controls are changes to the physical environment.  For example, install guardrails on scaffolding or ensure adequate ventilation in the paint department.

Administrative controls are changes to work practices or activities. A person-check procedure is an important type of administrative control for working alone.

Personal Protective Equipment should only be used as a control if other controls are not practical, or in combination of other controls. 

Employees can safely work in isolation if they make proper hazard/risk assessments and implement safe work practices and procedures.  When working alone, it is important that you:

  • Are aware of real and potential hazards in the area,
  • Are trained to recognize and control these hazards,
  • Are provided with the procedures and equipment to do the job safely, and
  • Have a check-in policy or other communication procedure in place that identifies if you’re in trouble and where you are.

Demonstrate

Develop a working alone communication plan with your workers. Determine who the designated contact person will be, how they will communicate, and how often.

Discuss some examples at your worksite of when workers may work alone and go over the procedures for such work.