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Violence in the Workplace - Working Late

Why is working late a problem?

While it is not always hazardous to work late or outside of regular business hours, it can mean you are working alone and/or that you are traveling to or from work after dark. Areas that are bustling with activity and considered very safe during daylight hours can take on an entirely different feel when the workday ends or after dark. Whether a situation is a high or low risk will depend on your location, the type of work you do, whether or not you interact with the public, and the consequences of an emergency, accident, injury, etc. This wide variety of circumstances makes it important to assess each situation individually.

In many situations, when you are working late, you are working alone – or the risks and solutions are similar to when you are working alone. The following OSH Answer documents on Working Alone offer more information:

What can I do to keep safe when I am working late?

  • Always let a friend, family member or security guard know you are working late and when you expect to leave.
  • Use the "buddy system". Arrange to work late on the same night as a friend or colleague.
  • Plan ahead and think about which areas are safe where you can retreat to and/or call for help.
  • Before it is dark outside, move your car to a well-lit area that is close to your building or a parking lot attendant.
  • Before your co-workers leave, check that all the doors and windows are locked and make sure nobody is in the washrooms and storage rooms.
  • If you enter a room and suspect that someone might be inside, do not call out. Back out quietly and go to a safe area with a lockable door. Call for help.
  • If you encounter someone you don't know, indicate that you are not alone. Say "my supervisor will be right here and will be able to help you".
  • If you suspect someone is lurking outside, call the police or security officers.
  • Ask your employer to consider providing safe transportation home or to parking areas after hours. Consider designating parking spots that are close to the building and well lit for those who work after hours.
  • Be aware of the services offered by your local transit company for after-hours commuters (e.g., they may have a "request stop" service that allows commuters to get off anywhere along the route after dark, rather than at a designated stop).

What can employers do to keep workers safe while they are working late?

  • Develop procedures and provide training on how to stay safe while working late.
  • Whenever possible, make sure workers are not working alone.
  • Designate a contact person to check on workers at scheduled intervals.
  • Provide a safe area (that is lockable) that workers can easily and quickly enter in an emergency.
  • Make sure the workplace is brightly lit, including any outside areas such as parking lots or gas pumps.
  • Make sure the workplace has good visibility and clear sightlines to entrances and exits as well as any outside areas. Make sure windows, doors and exits are not blocked by signs or objects.
  • To protect workers, consider providing convex safety mirrors so workers can see more of the workplace, bullet-resistant enclosures, alarm systems, panic buttons, global positioning systems (GPS), and radios (also known as an "open mike switch").
  • Post signs alerting the public that the premise has very little cash on hand.
  • Establish safe cash-handling procedures and consider installing drop safes where larger amounts of cash may be acquired throughout the night.

Document last updated on October 4, 2019

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Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.