While working alone is not in itself a hazard, it can be when circumstances outside of your control happen. What if you fall? What if you have a medical emergency? What if you cannot get help for yourself? These situations may not seem common, but they do occur and the consequences can be serious, so it’s important to have a plan in place.
What is the Definition of Working Alone?
Working alone is not just defined by a person working solely on their own. Even if you’re working near or around other people, it does not mean that they will be able or available to help.
Common examples of “working alone”:
- Driving by yourself for work – taxi drivers, travelling salesmen, delivery drivers.
- Working at a private residence – home-care workers, cleaners, contractors.
- Working at location where others cannot see you or expect you to be there – landscapers, window cleaners, security guards.
Who is Responsible?
If your employees are required to work alone, it is your responsibility to assess the hazards of their tasks and ensure they are minimized.
For example, minimizing or eliminating employees using a ladder if they are working alone. As the employer, you are also legally required to develop a “person check” procedure where employees are checked on at regular intervals to determine if they are safe and well. The procedure must also include what will be done in the event that the person working alone cannot be reached – how many times and when follow-up attempts to make contact will be made and when help will be dispatched.
Even if you are a self-employed contractor, with no employees or colleagues, it is sensible to create a similar procedure with a friend or loved one, to help reduce the risks of something happening.
Refer to WorkSafeBC “Sample procedure for regular person checks” for further information on how to set up these checks and procedures.
How to Identify Hazards
Sometimes it can be hard to think of all of the potential risks in a particular situation but by following, these basic guidelines you will be able to cover the most important points:
- Consider all aspects of your business — Think about the location, nature, and circumstances of your business or industry.
- Consider previous accidents — How many incidents have there been in your workplace and what happened? What about incidents at nearby businesses or previous work locations?
- Involve your employees — Ask for their input regarding current problems, concerns, and possible solutions.
How to Assess Risks
Once you’ve identified hazards, the next step is to assess the risks associated with them. A risk assessment will help you prioritize which hazards should be dealt with immediately and which ones can be dealt with later. When assessing risks, try to determine how likely an incident is and how serious it would be.
- How likely is it that the hazardous condition or situation will result in an incident?
- Have there been previous incidents at your location?
- Have there been similar incidents at nearby businesses?
Find Out More
To understand more about the procedures you should put in place when working alone, download a copy of WorkSafeBC’s “Working Alone – A Handbook for Small Business” from worksafebc.com or order a free printed copy from worksafebcstore.com