Working Alone

February 10th, 2012

Health and safety in the workplace is just as important for those who happen to work alone as those working among others. Working alone can be even more dangerous should an incident occur as immediate assistance is not as readily available, and means either working in a remote area (such as agricultural workers or researchers undertaking field work) or working alone in the same area that others happen to be (such as a cleaner or real estate agents).

Dangers of Working Alone
Working alone increases the difficulty in reaching emergency services no matter what period of time they are alone for. Some situations can suddenly arise due to a medical condition, a work-related injury or disease, depending on the environment, and the consequences can be fatal.
Even those who may have contact with members of the public from time to time, for example, nurses, shopkeepers or taxi drivers, can be affected by work-related violence, aggression and bullying.

The development of proper safe work systems for those working alone should be taken into great consideration, as well as taking current health and safety legislation into account. Under regulation 3.1 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, workplaces in which employees work alone are required to conduct risk management processes that are mandatory, while also having a means of communication and a procedure for regular contact should an emergency arise.

Working Alone and Risk Management
Risk management processes may include:

  • Recognising hazards in the workplace that employees can be exposed to
  • Assessing the likelihood of risks from these hazards and assessing risks, as well as the extent of any injury or harm
  • Reducing or eliminating the risk of injury and harm by putting control measures in place and have them reviewed and monitored on a regular basis.

To Be Alone and Safe
To ensure safety for employees working alone, employers must provide sufficient training and information, as well as be thorough with workers on understanding the hazards that may happen and what procedures should be followed in order to reduce risks. Supervision may also be required, and could be indirect if a worker is alone over long periods of time. Most importantly, all workers should receive consultation throughout this process regularly.

Employers should also assess work methods when establishing a safe system of work in order to determine whether or not it is necessary for a person to be working alone, as well as observing the level of risk involved in performing certain tasks. A system of work can be carefully managed so as to eliminate the need for anyone to work alone at all, which can be the most effective way in performing tasks safely within the workplace.

Working alone should not have to mean you are at more at risk of suffering an accident than those who work with others. Safety for those working alone is just as important, if not more so, and it is extremely significant that both employers and workers take the time to assess any risks before allowing employees to work alone in any workplace.