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A person is "alone" at work when they are on their own; when they cannot be seen or heard by another person.
It is important to consider all situations carefully. Working alone includes all workers who may go for a period of time where they do not have direct contact with a co-worker. For example, the receptionist in a large office building may be considered a "lone" worker. Alternatively, a construction worker who is doing work in a bathroom or other location that cannot be seen by co-workers may also be considered a lone worker. Other examples are gas station attendants, convenience store clerks, food outlet workers, taxi drivers, home care workers, social service workers, security guards or custodians.
While it is not always hazardous to work alone, it can be when other circumstances are present. Whether a situation is a high or low risk will depend on the location, type of work, interaction with the public, or the consequences of an emergency, incident, injury, etc. This wide variety of circumstances makes it important to assess each situation individually.
This OSH Answers document will cover the administrative details needed for lone workers in general (check-in procedures and hazard assessment). Please see related OSH Answers documents for more specific information on:
For more information on how to set up a violence prevention program please see Violence and Harassment in the Workplace.
High risk activities can involve risks from a variety of sources such as when working:
Check the regulations in your area. Some jurisdictions have specific laws concerning working alone.
There are many steps that can be taken to help ensure the safety of the lone worker:
It is important that a check-in procedure be in place. Decide if a verbal check-in is adequate, or if the worker must be accounted for by a visual check. Make sure your plan is appropriate for both regular business hours as well as after main office hours.
For most lone workers, the telephone will be the main source of contact. If using cell phones, always be sure that it is close by and charged. If cell phone service is unreliable in your area, be sure to have alternative methods of communication available (such as use of cameras, automated warning/duress devices, global positioning systems (GPSs), two-way radio, site visits or satellite technology).
When travelling out of the office, the main contact person should know the following details:
An example of a check-in procedure is:
(Adapted from CCOHS Violence in the Workplace Prevention Guide)
The following are some points to consider. Each circumstance will be different, so be sure to adapt the questions to suit your situation.
Length of time the person will be working alone:
Location of the work:
Type or nature of work:
Characteristics required by the individual who is working alone
(questions adapted from: Government of Western Australia, 2009 "Guidance Note: Working Alone")