OSEA Safety Blog

Working Alone

Friday, May 20, 2022 Gary Smith

There have been numerous changes to our work environment since 2020. From Covid, to the financial fallout the disease caused, the rules of the workplace have forever changed. One new challenge for Companies and Safety Professionals is addressing a significant increase in employees having to work “alone”. Either because of burdensome finances, or the mysteriously disappearing work force, more and more tasks that were previously done by two or more workers is now being assigned to a single worker. The safety of that lone worker has to be addressed.

Here is a very basic outline to be used when a worker is remote and alone.

1) Conduct a risk assessment for all tasks to be completed. Consider what can go wrong and how adverse impacts can be eliminated or reduced. That plan should include all pertinent information, location(s), frequency of communication, thorough pre-task prep for tools, materials, environmental assessment.

2) Worker needs to know the location of exits, safety equipment, i.e. – fire extinguishers, first aid kits etc., how to get in touch with others, and have a clear action plan in the event of an emergency. Worker should not take unnecessary risks.

3) Some tasks/jobs are not appropriate for working alone. Examples of tasks not appropriate for working alone:

  • Working at heights.
  • Working in a confined spaces (such as tanks, grain bins or elevators, culverts, etc.).
  • Working with high voltage electricity or other forms of hazardous energy.
  • Working with hazardous products.
  • Working with hazardous equipment such as chainsaws or firearms.
  • Working with the public, where there is a potential for violence.

4) Stay in regular contact with coworkers and supervisors. Ensure your method of communication will work in the task area. Cell phones and radio’s do not always work in all locations.

5) Use an Asynchronous remote buddysystem: That is a system, where the worker tells their supervisor/buddy where they are working, when to expect the worker to check in, and what to do if the worker does not check in at the appointed time.

This list is a starting point. Every task/job will have its own set of special requirements to address if they are to be completed by a “lone” worker.

The most important point to remember is working alone is not the same as working with a partner or group it requires more planning.

Work Safe. Work Smart. Work with OSEA. Start Now