Due Diligence and Keeping Lone Workers Safe

Second of a Series by Kent Macfarlane

risks ahead caution sign with storm in background

 

In this part of the “Due Diligence” series, Kent Macfarlane will walk through policies and procedures for effectively ensuring your staff who work alone are kept safe. If you missed the first part of this series, read it here.

There are many well-documented cases about hazards to lone workers than have led to specific legislative regulations in Canada, and some jurisdictions have specific laws concerning specific working conditions. These laws and regulations can change, so make certain your programme is up-to-date for your jurisdiction. To check out regulations in your jurisdiction, go here.

Work Alone Policy and Procedure Set-Up

I     Communication:communicating via walkie talkie circle

  • Is it necessary to “see” the person, or is voice communication adequate?
  • What forms of communication are available?
    • voice
    • walkie-talkie
    • land-line
    • cell/mobile phone
  • Will communication systems work properly in all situations?
    • ambient noise
    • “black-out”/no service areas
  • If the communication systems are in a vehicle, do you need additional methods of coverage for the person when they are away from the vehicle?
  • Is the system controlled in-house or by a contractor?

[bctt tweet=”#WorkAlone Policy check: Will ambient noise interfere with safety check-ups? #HazardAwareness”]

II     Location of the work:

  • Is transportation necessary to get there?
  • What kind of transportation is needed?
  • Is the vehicle equipped with emergency supplies such as:
    • a first aid kit
    • food and drinking water?
  • Will the person need to carry some or all of the emergency supplies with them when they leave the vehicle?
  • Does the person need training to be able to use the first aid equipment?
  • What are the consequences if the vehicle breaks down?
  • Will the person have to leave the vehicle for long periods of time?

[bctt tweet=”#WorkAlone Policy check: Are all employees equipped with first aid kits? #HazardAwareness”]

III    Type or nature of work:oil rig worker circle

  • Is there adequate training and education provided for the person to be able to work alone safely?
  • If the person is working inside a locked building, how will emergency services be able to get in? (For example: a night cleaner in a secure office building)
  • Is there adequate personal protective equipment available?
    • Is the worker comfortable with the training given?
    • Is it in good working order?
  • What machinery, tools or equipment will be used?
  • Is there a high risk activity involved?
  • Is there a possibility that fatigue could become a factor?
  • Are there extremes of temperature?
  • Is there a hazard from animal attack, insect bite (poisonous, or allergic reaction), etc.?
  • Does the work involve working with money or other valuables?
  • Does the work involve seizing property or goods such as
    • repossession,
    • recovering stolen property, etc.?

[bctt tweet=”#WorkAlone Policy check: Is there a possibility fatigue could become a risk on the job?”]

IV     Check-In Policy and Procedures:

Decide if a verbal check-in is adequate, or if the employee 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.

The telephone will be the main source of contact. If you work at a desk or station, have a telephone close by. If you are away from a main office or work station, the use of a cell phone is very helpful. If a cell phone is unreliable in your area, be sure to have alternative methods of communication available (such as use of public telephones, site visits or satellite technology).

When workers travel out of the office, the main contact person must know the following details:

  • Destination.
  • Contact information of worker, and destinations
  • Estimated time of arrival.
    • if the worker runs into a delay en route, she/he must let contact person and arrival location know of delay
  • Next destination and eta
  • Return time or date.
  • Mode of travel (public transit, car, plane, etc.).
  • Alternate plans in the event of bad weather, traffic problems, etc.

[bctt tweet=”#WorkAlone Policy check: What details will be given by your workers during safety check-ins?” ]

An example of a check-in procedure is:

  1. Prepare a daily work plan so it is known where the lone employee will be and when.Identify one main person to be the contact at the office, plus a back up. (These people must continue availability until all workers have completed their scheduled work and checked out for the day.)
  2. Define under what circumstances the lone employee will check in and how often. Stick to the visual check or call-in schedule.
  3. You may wish to implement a written contact-log. (Sometimes this is mandated by jurisdiction regulation).
  4. Have the contact person or back-up call or visit the lone employee at set intervals to make sure he or she is okay. 
  5. Pick out a code word to be used to identify or confirm that help is needed.

Develop an action plan to be followed if the lone employee does not check in when scheduled, and ensure that all parties know the plan completely. Review the plan at staff-meetings at least annually, or after an event in which help was, or should have been dispatched.

About the Author:

Kent Macfarlane has over 25 years experience as a Health and Safety professional, and currently advises clients through Health & Safety Management Assistance.  

Health & Safety Management Assistance is dedicated to improving Health and Safety in B. C. workplaces through the education, training and compliance of our clients. Their goal is to give you and your workers the guidance and education to ensure a safer work environment which will help to eliminate or reduce WorkSafe B.C. claims.


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