Any time a person is “alone” at work and they cannot be seen or heard by another person, they are considered a lone worker.
Working alone includes any and all employees who may go for a period of time where they don’t have direct contact with any coworkers. We typically think of lone workers as those in remote, industrial locations – think a rugged worker out in the wilderness – but a receptionist in a large office building is considered a “lone” worker, too.
On the other hand, a construction worker who is doing work in a new home build or some other location that isn’t visible to their coworkers could also be considered a lone worker. Other examples include gas station attendants, convenience store clerks, taxi drivers, social service workers, security guards, or custodians. Really, any employee who performs an activity that is carried out in isolation from other workers without close or direct supervision is a lone worker.
Is It Hazardous To Work Alone?
It isn’t always hazardous to work alone, but it can be if other circumstances are present. If your employee is working alone and runs into trouble, there won’t be anyone there to assist them. Whether a situation is considered high or low risk depends on the location, type of work, interaction with the public, or the consequences of an accident, emergency, or injury.
It’s essential that employers conduct complete risk and hazard assessments for every worker, and factor in the cases where their employees might be exposed to hazards while working alone. And while all workers face hazards on the job, there are additional hazards for lone workers that not everyone faces, including:
- Car accidents
- Confined spaces
- Hazardous substances or materials
- Violence from strangers or coworkers
- Trip and fall injuries
- Working at heights
- Threats from wildlife
- Sudden illnesses
What Does the Law Say?
Seven provinces and two territories in Canada regulate working alone:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Prince Edward Island
- Northwest Territories
These regulations were designed to ensure that lone workers can do so safely when having more than one worker on site isn’t always practical or possible. In these jurisdictions, lone worker safety is regulated and employers are obligated to follow the guidelines provided to ensure they keep their employees safe.
Some provinces and territories have more in-depth safety policies than others. Click on each province above for more information.
How Can We Protect Lone Workers?
The risk assessments completed by each employer should identify areas where control measures need to be put in place to protect workers, and may include:
- Communication devices (e.g. cell phone, radio, etc.)
- Controlled periodic check-ins
- Automated warning devices
- Instruction and training in proper procedures (e.g. code words for potentially violent situations)
- Using the correct personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Health monitoring
- First aid kits and training
- Locking and securing workplace
- Implementing incident reporting procedures
- Live-monitoring software that identifies gas hazards, panic, and man-down situations
It’s critical for employers to assess lone workers and their work environments individually and make provisions for them based on each unique situation – and the type of work they’ll be performing. Check out the link below for more information on lone worker safety.