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When is working alone not okay?

5 min read

When is working alone not okay?

Written by Don Cameron, StaySafe

Find out more about the law on lone working, the main hazards and risks of working alone and offer advice on solutions for your business in Canada.

Lone Worker Safety

For many organizations, lone working increases productivity, flexibility and allows businesses to operate on a wider scale. However, there are a number of risks that pose a threat to lone working staff. Lone workers do not have access to immediate help should an accident occur which often makes their roles more dangerous than office-based jobs. If a lone worker suffers a fall, is attacked by an assailant or has a medical accident and is unable to call for help, they could be seriously harmed.

So how can you ensure that your lone working staff are protected whilst at work? In this article, we’ll discuss the main risks and hazards associated with lone working, and take a look at different scenarios where lone working may be considered unsafe.

What is lone working?

Lone working is when work activities are carried out without the direct and immediate support of supervisors or colleagues. To put it simply, if an employee cannot be seen or heard by a colleague, they are lone working, whether that is for all or part of their working day.

CCOHS and lone working

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) provides comprehensive guidance on the obligations for safe working for employers and employees. CCOHS standards apply to all work, including lone working. See our guide to CCOHS and Workplace Safety in Canada.

Lone working legislation

Health and safety legislation differs across states and many do not have specific policies for lone working. Under the official guidelines companies who employ lone workers must account for each employee:

  • throughout each work shift at regular intervals appropriate to the job assignment to ensure the employee’s safety and health; and
  • at the end of the job assignment or at the end of the workshift, whichever occurs first

Alongside this, employers should also implement their own regulations to help ensure the safety of their lone workers. These could include:

  • conducting thorough lone worker risk assessments
  • producing a written health and safety policy and ensuring all employees understand it
  • taking steps to reduce or eliminate risk in order to create a safe working environment
  • providing information, instructions, lone worker training and supervision where appropriate
  • regularly reviewing and improving upon lone worker risk assessments and policies

A thorough approach to safety involves supervisors periodically visiting or observing lone workers and regular communication throughout a shift or period when someone is working alone. It is also advisable to use automatic warning devices and for supervisors to check in with staff once the period of lone work is over.

Lone worker risk assessments

Working alone is completely legal and in most cases, it is safe to do so. However, a risk assessment should be carried out on lone working activities so employers can assess and mitigate any potential dangers to their staff.

Free download: Guide to lone worker risk assessments

If the risks identified through the process are too high or uncontrollable, you must not let your employees work alone under any circumstance.

If, however, steps can be taken to reduce risk to a controllable level, in line with legislation, it may be safe to allow your employees to work alone, following the implementation of a lone worker policy.

What is a lone worker policy?

A lone worker policy is a guide that sets out your company’s rules on working alone and helps your employees to understand the risks of their role. It also provides your staff with practical advice and instruction on how to safely carry out their roles and what procedures to follow should an incident occur.

A regular review of both your risk assessments and lone worker policy will help you identify whether your lone workers are safe. You may also wish to carry out inspections to ensure safe work practices are being followed.

Monitoring employees using Lone Worker Apps

Being able to monitor your employee’s whereabouts is extremely important in keeping them safe, as accidents can occur at any time. Regular communications should be maintained with lone working staff and procedures put in place so that employees can quickly communicate with their employer and raise the alarm if needed.

Manual methods of monitoring can be time-consuming, unreliable and often include a large amount of paperwork. Significant advances in mobile technology have led many companies to switch to app-based lone worker solutions to help them monitor and protect their remote staff.

Lone Worker FAQs

Can employers legally ask someone to work a night shift alone?

Employers can legally require one person to work overnight alone. Security guards regularly monitor buildings alone throughout the night, whilst other roles such as hotel receptionists or petrol station attendants may work alone out of hours. Employees who work in these roles may be seen as easy targets for threats, such as theft or violence, and extra precautions should be put in place.

Is it legal for an apprentice to work alone?

It is legal for an apprentice to work alone if it is safe to do so. Employers have the same responsibilities to apprentices as they do any other employee. Therefore, they hold a primary responsibility for the health and safety of the apprentice and are required to carry out risk assessments and manage any potential threats.

Are you allowed to work alone in a factory?

Working alone in a factory is also allowed. However, the job role being carried out alone in the factory should be taken into consideration. For example, if operating machinery, you must ensure it is suitable for one person to do this alone. You should also take into consideration how an alarm can be raised in an emergency and what the response time is likely to be.

Can a 16-year-old work alone?

A 16-year-old can work alone if the organisation employing them has conducted a risk assessment and found it safe to do so. Young people under 18 have different employment rights from adult workers, including where and when they can work.

Are you allowed to work alone in a shop?

Working alone in a shop is completely legal and common practice. Extra safety measures should be taken however, as lone shop workers can become easy targets for robberies and other crimes. A risk assessment must also be carried out and consider the local crime rates, employee training levels and what emergency procedures are in place.

To see how StaySafe can help you protect your lone workers, 24/7, wherever they are, book your free demo today.

Are you protecting your lone workers?

Our comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about lone working. From identifying the lone workers in your organisation, to the risks they face in different environments, our lone worker guide will ensure you know how to keep your staff protected and meet your legal duty of care.
Dom Cameron

Dom CameronCEO, StaySafe

Don has been leading the growth of StaySafe since 2014, and we are now the leading, global, app-based lone worker solution.

Before coming over to StaySafe, Don built up over 25 years experience developing successful businesses in the IT, Telecoms and service industries.

Passionate about lone worker safety, Don is constantly striving to make sure StaySafe brings the most benefits to lone workers and their employers to keep more people safe.

Explore our range of lone worker solutions

See StaySafe in action

Looking for more information on protecting your lone workers?

We have a range of expert resources and topical blogs to help keep your lone working staff safe.

Guide to Lone Working

A comprehensive lone worker guide for employers, managers and the self employed.

Lone Worker Risk Assessment
An extensive guide to risk assessments for employers or managers of lone workers.
Three Questions to Ask When Purchasing a Lone Working Solution
An informative guide outlining everything you need to know when considering purchasing a lone working solution.

Find out more about StaySafe solutions

Lone Worker App

Our intuitive app allows employees to check in safely following a lone working session and raise an alert in an emergency.

Cloud Based Monitoring Hub
Our hub uses GPS to accurately locate your lone workers and provides you with real-time updates on their movements.
Wearable Technology
Pairing the app with V.BTTN is a great solution for anyone working at height, with gloves or machinery, where pushing a button may be a more convenient way of using the StaySafe app.
Satellite Tracking Devices
Our satellite tracking devices are designed for those regularly travelling to remote areas where you can’t even get a mobile signal.
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