Working Alone Shouldn’t Mean Working at Risk
Millions of employees work away from their employer’s location. If some of them are yours, although you don’t see them every day, you’re still responsible for their safety and health.
Lone workers perform their jobs on the road, at client’s sites, in home offices, and other locations distant from your workplace. Some, like security guards and night maintenance employees, may work in and around your facility but still work alone.
Safety and health attorney Adele Abrams emphasizes, “Employers have to realize that they remain primarily responsible for their workers’ safety and health regardless of where the work is performed.”
Many believe that once they dispatch workers to a third-party location, the individual in charge of that site is responsible for overseeing and monitoring the employee’s safety. “That’s simply not the case,” Abrams says.
Occupational Safety and Health agencies suggests a familiar approach for protecting off-site workers:
- Identify hazards of the work
- Assess the risks involved
- Put measures in place to avoid or control risks
Control measures can include instruction, training, supervision, personal protective equipment (PPE), and communication systems. Be sure to talk to workers directly about the risks they encounter and periodically conduct a more formal risk assessment.
To help determine if someone working alone is safe, ask the following questions:
- Does the workplace present a special risk to the worker?
- Is there a safe way in and out?
- Can temporary access equipment (such as portable ladders) be handled safely by one person?
- Are there chemicals or hazardous substances in use that may pose a risk to the worker?
- Does the job involve lifting objects too large for one person?
- Is more than one person needed to operate essential controls for the safe operation of equipment or workplace transport?
- Is there a risk of violence?
- Are young, pregnant, or disabled employees at risk if they work alone?
- If the lone worker’s first language is not English, are there arrangements to ensure clear communication, especially in an emergency?
Is the worker medically fit to work alone?