As a business a (PCBU) you must manage the risks associated with remote or isolated work. This includes hazards such as exposure to violence, poor access to emergency assistance, and psychological injuries or mental health.

WorkSafe authorities have developed a framework for working alone risk assessments that can be conducted by an employer to and this article sets out to help you understand how you can undertake a risk assessment and that will guide you through the process of putting controls in place to mitigate the risk of WHS incidents associated with remote or isolated workers and for anyone that is working alone.

WorkSafe specific that before services are provided, employers should identify risks and put risk controls in place in consultation with health and safety representatives and workers. There are several hazards to consider including those hazards or risks of the job, and solutions for the hazards and risks of working alone.

These are some factors to consider when assessing the risks to health and safety of working alone. Some solutions will be for the hazards and risks of the job and others will be related to working alone.

You may also like to refer to a recent blog on Identifying and controlling risks when working alone so that you have some ideas about solutions in the working alone risk assessment checklist below.

Working alone risk assessment checklist

WHS IssueYes/NoSolution
The nature of the work

  • Is it appropriate for the lone worker to be alone whilst carrying out work activities (e.g. a buddy may be required if a community support worker is attending a client’s house who has a history with violence and aggression)
  • Is there adequate information and instruction for the worker to be able to work alone safely (e.g. the higher the WHS risk the more information and instruction that needs to be in place to ensure reasonable steps have been taken to ensure their safety)?
  • Is there risk of violence and aggression from other people or incidents such as bullying, harassment or discrimination (e.g. clients, patients or members of the public)?
  • Are there hazards associated with the plant, equipment, machinery, tools and resources that may be used?
  • Is there high-risk activity (e.g. work at heights, work with electricity, work with hazardous substances or work with hazardous equipment, such as chainsaws or firearms, or hazardous equipment at the site, e.g. weapons, animals etc.)?
  • Is fatigue likely to increase risk (e.g. with long hours driving a vehicle or operating machinery, or increased workload either physical or psychological that may impact decision making)?
  • Is the lone worker likely to be exposed to extremes of temperature?
  • Is there risk of attack by an animal (e.g. an aggressive dog when attending to a client’s home)?
  • Is there an effective system for checking that all protective clothing and equipment and emergency equipment is packed and in good working order?
  • If the worker is working inside a locked building, will emergency services be able to gain access if the worker is unable to let them in (e.g. night cleaners who work alone)?
The location of the work

  • Is the work in a location which increases the risk of violence to workers (e.g. from people affected by drugs or alcohol or in high crime areas)?
  • Is lighting in entrances and exits to buildings and parking areas adequate?
  • Have aspects of building design been addressed, such as access barriers and clear lines of sight?
  • Are security measures adequate, including alarm maintenance and testing scheduling, video or patrols?
  • Is the work in a remote location (and if so do you know what lone workers are at what remote locations if something goes wrong)?
  • Does the form of transport increase the risk (i.e. the level of risk may vary with different types of vehicles, e.g. own vehicle, work vehicle, unfamiliar vehicles such as hire cars, vehicles that require special licenses, public transport or taxi/hired transport)?
First aid and emergencies

  • Are there procedures in place for post-incident management, for example, debriefing or counselling (and have you clearly explained this in the form of policies and procedures)?
  • Is first aid equipment available for immediate treatment (e.g. a first aid kit in the vehicle)?
  • Is the level of first aid training required to use the first aid equipment adequate?
  • If first aid equipment is vehicle-based, are there arrangements to cover the worker when they are away from the vehicle?
  • Are there arrangements for dealing with a vehicle breakdown?
  • Is the remote work location fitted with emergency supplies, such as adequate drinking water?
The length of time the worker may be working alone

  • Will the worker need to be alone to finish this job?
  • Has a reasonable time for the worker to be alone been identified?
  • Is it safe for the worker to be alone at all?
  • The time of day when the worker may be working alone?
  • Is there increased risk at certain times of day (e.g. some lone workers may be more exposed to violence on evening and night shifts)?
Communication

  • Does the lone worker have access to a communications system (e.g. mobile or satellite phones, alarm systems)?
  • Will the emergency communication or alarm system work properly in all situations?
  • Are there procedures for regular contact with the lone worker who works alone?
  • Are lone workers authorised to contact emergency services directly?
  • Is voice communication essential for the safety of the Lone worker?
  • If communication systems are vehicle-based, are there arrangements to cover the worker when they are away from the vehicle?
The training of the lone worker

  • Has the lone worker had training to prepare them for working alone and, where applicable, in remote locations (e.g. training on dealing with occupational violence and aggression, training on how and when to withdraw on assessing risk, for first aid, WHS policies and procedures, hazard and risk identification, and more specialist training where applicable for things such as vehicle breakdowns, communications systems and remote location survival)?
  • Is the lone worker trained to drive a vehicle in off-road situations where applicable?
  • Does the worker speak English or is there anything that would interfere with his or her ability to communicate with someone in an emergency?
Knowledge sharing

  • Are there procedures to ensure knowledge of lone workers’ whereabouts (e.g. clients’ addresses, expected arrival and return times)?
  • Are there procedures for incident reporting so that all Lone workers are aware of local risks (e.g. clients’ history of violence)?
  • Are there ways which knowledge sharing from identifies risks and hazards are shared and discussed with others in your workplace (lessons learned)?
Is there anything else that applies to your situation that is likely to increase risk for the lone worker who is remote or isolated or who is working alone?

Need some help with WHS training to support your remote and isolated workers?

To find out more about the Sentrient working alone online course, or occupational violence and aggression online course you can visit the website page for our working alone course or occupational violence and aggression course or the Sentrient main website.