The Risks and Hazards of working alone

Working alone can increase the likelihood of some workplace hazards or risks occurring and in those cases where incidents do occur, the consequences can be more severe.

In some cases other people may be close by, such as a cleaner working by themselves in a city office building. In other cases the employee could be in a remote location, such as a researcher undertaking field work by themselves in a national park.

In either scenario it is important that as an Employer you need to understand and be adequately prepared for the challenges employees that work-alone may face.

Occupations and industries where there is a high number of staff that ‘work alone’ include:

  • sales representatives, including real estate agents
  • Convenience store and service station attendants (particularly night shift employees)
  • transport freight and public transport drivers
  • doctors, health and community workers
  • rural, farm and agricultural workers
  • Scientists, hunters, park rangers or others undertaking field work.

What are the risks?

Exposure to violence and poor access to emergency assistance are the two main hazards of working alone. However, these hazards can also be faced by people who work with colleagues.

Because there are no hazards which are exclusive to working alone, working alone does increase the risks of any given job. For example, an attendant working alone late at night in a 24-hour convenience store may be a greater target for exposure to violence.

Working alone can also increase the severity of workplace injuries. A park ranger who is bitten by a snake has an increased chance of severe consequences if they are working alone rather than with colleagues who can help.

How can working alone be made as safe as possible?

By law, employers must provide a safe working environment for their workers, so far as is reasonably practicable.

This involves taking a systematic approach to identifying all the risks associated with hazards as well as implementing control measures to eliminate the risks or reduce them to the lowest possible level.

In the case of working alone this includes:

  • identifying situations where people may be working alone, are isolated from other workers or in remote locations.
  • assessing the risks associated with each situation
  • reviewing the effectiveness of control measures
  • reporting, investigating and implementing control measures in regard to any incidents to ensure they don’t happen again
  • documenting this process so that there is evidence of everything that has been done in the workplace to reduce the risks to the lowest possible levels.

To assist in the identification of risks and elimination of hazards for your employees that work alone, or in isolated and remote areas, we have put together a checklist to ensure all risks are have been assessed and planned for.

For mor­e information as to how you can implement safe work practices, contact us here.