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Working Alone

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Working alone is not always hazardous, but it can be when other circumstances are present. The risks of working alone or at an isolated worksite depend on the location and the nature of the work as well as the potential consequences of an emergency, accident, injury, etc.  For example, if a worker is the only person at a site and assistance, in case of emergency, is not readily available, that person is considered to be working alone. It is important to assess the hazards and associated risks of every situation and take steps to reduce those risks.

Note: this document does not discuss the first aid requirements in isolated workplaces.

What does it mean “to work alone”?

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996, state that “to work alone” same as above means to be the only worker of the employer or contractor at that worksite and in circumstances where assistance is not readily available to that worker in the event of injury, ill health or emergency.

What is an “isolated worksite”?

An isolated worksite or place of employment is one that is more than two hours’ travel time away from a hospital or medical facility under normal travel conditions using the available means of surface transportation or for which transport by aircraft is the normal mode of transport.

Employer or contractor

If a worker is required to work alone or at an isolated place of employment, an employer or contractor in consultation with the committee or representative, or the workers where there is no committee/representative exists, shall:  

  • Identify the risks arising from the conditions and circumstances from
    • the work performed by the worker
    • the isolation of the place of employment
  • Take all reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or reduce those risks.  
  • Must Establish an effective method of communication which may include radio, phone or cellular phone, or other means.
  • Take additional steps to reduce risk which may include:
    • Regular contact with the lone worker by the employer or contractor;
    • Limitation on, or not allowing  specified activities;
    • Establish minimum training requirements;
    • Provide personal protective equipment;
    • Establish safe work practices or procedures;
    • Provide emergency supplies to be used when travelling under extreme cold or other inclement weather conditions.
  • Provide and make readily accessible to workers at a distant or isolated place of employment, two blankets, a stretcher and splints for the upper and lower limbs.

Additional duties for employers and contractors involved in mining:

  • Ensure no worker is required or permitted to work alone at any worksite if the absence of personal communication with another person may place the worker’s health or safety at risk.
  • Ensure contact is made with the lone worker personally, at least once every two hours.
  • Ensure that any underground part of the mine where a worker is working alone is inspected at least once during each shift.

Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996
S.S., c. O-1.1, Reg 1

Part III General Duties

Section 35 Working alone or at isolated place of employment

35. (1) In this section, "to work alone" means to work at a worksite as the only worker of the employer or contractor at that worksite, in circumstances where assistance is not readily available to the worker in the event of injury, ill health or emergency.

(2) Where a worker is required to work alone or at an isolated place of employment, an employer or contractor, in consultation with the committee, the representative or, where there is no committee or representative, the workers, shall identify the risks arising from the conditions and circumstances of the worker's work or the isolation of the place of employment.

(3) An employer or contractor shall take all reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or reduce the risks identified pursuant to subsection (2).

(4) The steps to be taken to eliminate or reduce the risks pursuant to subsection (3):

(a) must include the establishment of an effective communication system that consists of:

(i) radio communication;

(ii) phone or cellular phone communication; or

(iii) any other means that provides effective communication in view of the risks involved; and

(b) may include any of the following:

(i) regular contact by the employer or contractor with the worker working alone or at an isolated place of employment;

(ii) limitations on, or prohibitions of, specified activities;

(iii) establishment of minimum training or experience, or other standards of competency;

(iv) provision of personal protective equipment;

(v) establishment of safe work practices or procedures;

(vi) provision of emergency supplies for use in travelling under conditions of extreme cold or other inclement weather conditions.

Part V First Aid

Section 50 Interpretation

50. In this Part:

(a) "agency" means a body, person, association, society or other organization that delivers first aid training courses and cardiopulmonary resuscitation training courses by one or more competent instructors;

(b) "close", in relation to a place of employment or worksite, means a place of employment or worksite that is not more than 30 minutes' travel time from a hospital or medical facility under normal travel conditions using the available means of transportation;

(c) "distant", in relation to a place of employment or worksite, means a place of employment or worksite that is more than 30 minutes' but less than two hours' travel time from a hospital or medical facility under normal travel conditions using the available means of transportation;

(d) "high-hazard work" means work regularly involving any activity set out in Table 8 of the Appendix;

(e) "instructor" means a person who has successfully completed first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructor training;

(f) "isolated", in relation to a place of employment or worksite, means a place of employment or worksite:

(i) that is more than two hours' travel time from a hospital or medical facility under normal travel conditions using the available means of surface transportation; or

(ii) for which transport by aircraft is the normal mode of transport;

(g) "low-hazard work" means work of an administrative, professional or clerical nature that does not require substantial physical exertion or exposure to potentially hazardous conditions, work processes or substances;

(h) "medical facility" means a medical clinic or office where a physician or registered nurse is always readily available.

Section 60 First aid supplies and equipment

60. (1) An employer or contractor shall ensure that:

(a) all first aid supplies and equipment are protected and kept in a clean and dry state;

(b) no supplies, equipment or materials other than supplies and equipment for first aid are kept in the first aid box mentioned in clause 56(1)(a);

(2) At a place of employment where a first aid attendant is required pursuant to section 54, an employer or contractor shall provide the additional first aid supplies and equipment set out:

(a) in Table 11 of the Appendix where a first aid attendant with a class A qualification is required; and

(b) in Table 12 of the Appendix where a first aid attendant with a class B qualification or an emergency medical technician's licence is required.

(3) At a distant or isolated place of employment, an employer or contractor shall provide and make readily accessible to workers two blankets, a stretcher and splints for the upper and lower limbs.

Mines Regulations, 2003
R.R.S., c. O-1, r. 2

Part V General Safety Requirements

Section 27 Working alone

27. (1) An employer or contractor must ensure that no worker is required or permitted to work alone at any worksite if the absence of personal communication with another person may place the worker's health or safety at risk.

(2) If a worker is working alone at a worksite, an employer or contractor must ensure that contact is made with the worker personally, or by radio, telephone or other suitable means, at least once every two hours.

Section 28 Regular inspection of underground mine

28. (1) An employer or contractor must prepare a written plan for regular inspections of an underground mine that:

(a) identifies the parts of the mine to be inspected; and

(b) subject to subsection (2), specifies the frequency of inspection for each part of the mine to be inspected, taking into account:

(i) the work to be done in the mine;

(ii) the conditions arising in the mine; and

(iii) the requirements of these regulations.

(2) Inspections must be made at least once during each shift in any underground part of the mine where:

(a) mining is taking place;

(b) drilling or blasting is taking place; or

(c) a worker is working alone.

(3) An employer or contractor must:

(a) appoint a competent person to implement the plan for inspection of a mine;

(b) ensure that the person appointed pursuant to clause (a) records each inspection carried out; and

(c) ensure that any condition relevant to the health or safety of workers on succeeding shifts is recorded in the shift record.