Frequently asked questions - Working alone
This page contains frequently asked questions on working alone
Is it against the law for a person to work alone?
No, however the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 contains general duties and responsibilities placed upon employers and workers to ensure their safety at work. These duties extend to workers working alone. The Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 lay down requirements with respect to communication with workers who are isolated from others while on the job.
What does the term ‘isolated worker' mean?
A worker can be isolated from other persons by the time, location or nature of the work. ‘Isolated’ usually refers to a person who is alone in any place as part of their work.
Does a person have to work alone for a specified period of time to be considered an isolated worker?
No. A person is alone at work when they are on their own; when they cannot be seen or heard by another person; and when the worker cannot expect a visit from another worker or member of the public for some time.
What are some examples of persons working alone in regional and metropolitan areas of Western Australia?
- a worker on a farm or station;
- a person working for a local or state government agency;
- a forest operations worker;
- a geologist;
- a worker at a depot or business where there are no other workers;
- an office cleaner working outside normal working hours; or
- a security officer.
In general, what should employers do to provide a safe working environment for people working alone?
Employers should identify the hazards facing workers working alone, assess the risks and implement appropriate controls. Employers should also provide adequate information, instruction and training for people who work alone. Some questions which should be considered include:
- Does the worker understand what is meant by 'isolated worker'?
- Has the employer considered the competencies and characteristics of the person who is to work alone?
- Is there a means of communication available which will enable the worker to call for help in the event of an emergency?
- Is there a procedure for regular contact to be made with the worker?
- Is the worker trained in the procedure for regular contact with the employer?
- Does the employer possess a copy of the guidance note for working alone and the checklist Isolated employees - Commercial vehicle drivers?
- Generally, what are the responsibilities of workers who work alone?
Workers who work alone should take reasonable care to ensure their own safety and health at work. This includes complying with safety and health instructions given by the employer.
What are factors that may increase risk for people who work alone?
- the length of time the person may be working alone;
- the time of day when a person may be working alone;
- means of communication;
- the location of the work;
- the nature of the work; and
- the competencies and characteristics of the person working alone.
How can an employer reduce the risk for people who work alone?
An employer should ensure that workers are following safe work procedures and working in a manner consistent with the instruction and training provided. Adequate supervision should ensure workers take reasonable care of their own safety and health, especially if the work is carried out in a remote area.
What type of communication with isolated workers is specifically required by legislation?
Regulation 3.3 requires a procedure for regular contact and a means of communication. This means that both requirements should be in place as part of a safe system of work.
What are some examples of communication procedures?
- a telephone call to home base on arrival and departure at a work site;
- development and approval of trip itineraries for extended trips and adherence to the itinerary;
- pre-trip agreement on departure and arrival times and accommodation arrangements;
- for travel in remote areas an emergency location beacon should be carried in the vehicle; and
- pre-arranged mobile phone calls at scheduled times.
What are some industries that may require additional equipment or enhanced communication capability?
- agricultural industry;
- pastoral industry;
- forest operations;
- transport industry; and
- commercial fishing.
What are some means of communication other than telephone that may be used to communicate with isolated workers?
- personal security systems;
- radio communication systems;
- satellite communication systems; and
- emergency location beacons.
For further information on any of the frequently asked questions, please refer to the WorkSafe Guidance note for Working alone
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