A tip truck driver died after being crushed between the cabin of his truck and a tree whilst preparing for the day’s operations. He was working alone at the time in an isolated area. This is just one of the incidents involving workers who were injured whilst working alone, highlighting the dangers that solitary work poses. These dangers need to be identified and workers need to remember certain work health and safety procedures in order to avoid being injured or killed in an incident.
The risk of injury for people working in solitary may be increased because of difficulty contacting emergency services and following other emergency procedures when they are required to do so.
Emergency situations may arise because of the sudden onset of a medical condition, accidental work-related injury or disease or exposure to the elements. The harm caused can be very serious and may result in a fatality for workers who are separated or working alone. These workers are on their own, therefore they cannot be heard or seen when an emergency arises.
A safe system of work needs to be developed for people who work alone. Employers have a duty to conduct a risk assessment and have a means of communication available for emergency situations.
Employers need to firstly identify hazards that may affect the person working alone and assess the risks of injury from the hazard by considering the likelihood of the hazard occurring and the worst case scenario if it does occur.
Implementing control measures to minimise the risks would be the next step and these control measures need to be reviewed on a regular basis.
The person who will be working alone must be trained and instructed on working alone and the procedures to follow as these will differ from ordinary workers who work in a group.
Workers who work alone have a responsibility to comply with workplace health and safety regulations.
Workers should report hazards and any incidents that may have occurred to their employer. Employers can then develop systems to reduce this hazard.
Even self-employed people have to take care of their own safety when they work alone.
Employers must ensure that in the event of an emergency a means of communication is available.
The person working alone must be trained to carry out work activities safely without supervision, manage events that occur when working alone and follow procedures to obtain emergency assistance if required. If working in a remote location without the proper infrastructure and support the person working alone must be able to do so safely.
Factors that need to be considered when compiling the safety procedures are the amount of time spent working alone, communication, location and nature of the work.
Employers are responsible for providing a safe working environment, information, instruction and training, supervision, personal protective equipment and safe plant and machinery for employees working alone. Employers need to also determine if it is really necessary for the worker to work alone. Some activities may be too dangerous to carry out alone or without assistance or supervision.
The information, training and instruction provided by the employer must specifically address working alone and procedures the worker should follow in an emergency. Employers should also educate the worker on procedures and use of emergency communication devices.
Procedures need to be put in place in the event of fires, need for first aid or exposure to hazardous material for the worker and be specific to the workers unique situation.
Because of the nature of the work, direct supervision would not be possible but a form of indirect supervision should be employed.
Employers should be satisfied that workers have the necessary skills and capability to work independently before allowing them to do so. Young, new or apprentice workers are particularly vulnerable on site, so employers should be careful to avoid making them work alone.
Workers have a legal obligation to comply with safety instructions as directed by their employers.
Personal security systems should also feature in work-sites where people work alone. These wireless, portable devices carry a signal from the workers transmitter to a transcribe at the companies receiver at a central location. Some advanced devices have non-motion sensor that will alert the head office if there is no movement for an amount of time, indicating a possible emergency.
Workers need to remain especially alert and vigilant when working alone as the dangers are just as real, and they don’t have the same support and assistance as other workers.
Posted by Steven Asnicar.