Working Alone presents unique challenges for both Employers and Employees. Every year Australians from all industries and workplaces are injured, assaulted, or killed whilst Working Alone. It is essential that all Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs), safety practitioners, managers, supervisors and workers are aware of the hazards that may be present for people required to work remotely or in isolation.
Legislation, Regulations and Codes of Practice:
RMTO has designed a Working Alone course to assist in the identification, assessment and control of the hazards associated with remote or isolated work, and the implementation of appropriate policies and procedures to enable organisations to meet their legal obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (WHS Regulations), the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 (OHS Regulations) and certain approved Codes of Practice. These include the Work Health and Safety Code of Practice 2011 —Managing the Work Environment and Facilities, and the Work Health and Safety Code of Practice 2011 —First Aid in the Workplace.
Under the WHS Act and Regulations, PCBUs, workers and other persons have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of people at work and those people that may be affected by that work, this includes workers staying late, doing overtime or working in remote or isolated locations. PCBUs have a duty of care under section 19 of the WHS/OHS Act to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers while they are at work. As taught in the Working Alone Course every PCBUs should proactively identify, assess, control and monitor workplace environments that present a risk to remote or isolated workers using a risk management approach.
Workers have a duty under section 28 of the WHS/OHS Act to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, and the health and safety of other persons, and to comply with reasonable safety instructions given by the PCBU. Workers should work with PCBUs to identify and control the risks associated with remote or isolated work and assist to put in place appropriate health and safety measures. Policies implemented should be specific as to whether the work is Isolated (‘temporal’ or ‘geographical’) or Remote (Away from the standard office environment), and plan, implement and monitor procedures accordingly.
The potential risk of any serious injury from existing or unforeseen hazards is increased in these unique working environments and requires additional precautions to be taken. A major danger for remote or isolated workers is sustaining an injury or an incident occurring that precludes self rescue. It is in these circumstances that only effective procedures will be of help to the at risk individual.
As a minimum the following areas need to be assessed when developing policies and procedures for hazards associated Working Alone:
- Work environment
- Remote premises/accommodation (office, plant and equipment)
- Remote communication systems, personal alarms and procedures
- Physical and psychological fitness for duty (fatigue management, disease and recruitment issues)
- Vehicles and travel (land, sea and air—is it fit for purpose and are any modifications compliant?)
- Information, training and supervision (including cultural awareness)
- Emergency plans.
Organisations should have established systems for reporting and investigations into any workplace injuries, illnesses and dangerous incidents that may occur. It is essential that workers are aware of the process to follow when reporting an incident and workers should be encouraged to proactively identify any health and safety issues in their workplace and report in a timely manner. Notification of an incident is a statutory obligation outlined in section 35 of the WHS/OHS Act. WHS/OHS Officers and Managers have a duty to not only investigate risks within their workplace but research incidents from similar workplace environments to ensure any unforeseen hazards are prevented before the fact.
RMTO have developed a Working Alone Course using WHS legislation, Regulations, Australian Standards and Codes of Practice.