When is working alone actually working alone?

When it comes to health and safety requirements, what is classified as working alone?

Occupational Health and Safety legislation in most countries has some requirement for putting in place measures for staff who work alone.

But, how literal do you take these requirements to provide safety solutions for staff who work alone? What is working alone and who are the lone workers in your team?

Is going to the archive building to find a file considered working alone? Is visiting a known client or riding in a taxi working alone? Is working by yourself in a public place with a limited number of people about considered working alone?

Is working from home considered working alone?

All good questions, but if you are like us, you must be thinking there is a line in the sand where just because you are the only person from your company present, doesn’t mean you need over the top and expensive safety measures in place.

The Alberta Labour Department has this handy guide that we think covers the definition of working alone in an easy to understand manner and is well worth a read.

Basically it comes down to, if you are in an environment where there are some people nearby who can be reasonably expected to offer assistance in a timely manner, even if they are members of the public, then you are not considered to be working alone.

But, if you are in any environment where there are no people nearby who can be reasonably expected to offer assistance in a timely, then you are working alone, and appropriate measures need to be put in place.

Let’s take driving for example, probably the most dangerous task most employees will undertake and often travel for work is by yourself.

Say you drive a highway alone, if a crash were to happen you would expect a member of the public to pass by shortly thereafter and offer assistance, therefore highway driving is not working alone.

However, if you drive a rural road after dark, you would expect it may take a very long time for a member of the public to drive by and offer assistance, therefore driving a rural road at night is considered working alone and appropriate measures should be put in place.

At the end of the day, it comes back to taking some time and assessing the tasks your team do alone and who else is about that could offer assistance in a timely manner. It maybe that it is not a one size fits all approach and pre-start inspections are needed. Whatever you do, documenting how you manage the risks associated is very important, especially if your systems involve a task by task assessment.

For more information on what is considered working alone and what is not for your region, have a closer look at your regulatory bodies website or talk to someone else in your line of work.