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Working alone

Remote or isolated work is work that is isolated from the assistance of other people because of the location, time or nature of the work. Assistance from other people includes medical assistance, rescue and emergency services. A person is considered to be “alone” at work when they cannot be seen or heard by another person, and when they cannot expect a visit from a supervisor, another worker or member of the public for some time. In some situations, two or more personnel may be working together in a remote location that poses increased risk (e.g. working in an outback location, working on a remote research station) as they are not within close proximity of other personnel and associated rescue, medical or emergency services. These situations must be assessed using an appropriate risk assessment process.

This guidance applies to working alone at any time but when planning after-hours working there are specific limitations on accessing workplaces and also on the types of work that may be undertaken.

Health and safety legislation requires that if an employee is isolated from other persons because of the time, location or nature of the work then the employer must ensure that there is a means of communication available which will enable the employee to call for help in the event of an emergency and arrangements made to ensure regular contact. The maximum penalty for breaching this regulation is $25,000.

If you are required or intend to work alone you must have permission to do so from a Manager or Supervisor who has assessed risks associated with the planned activities, considered the availability of any potentially required support services and concluded that such working arrangements are acceptable. This may include addressing unattended reactions or experiments. In addition, disclosure and consideration of any medical conditions that may give rise to a dangerous or life threatening situation when working alone must be taken into account.

In all of the following cases, working alone is not permitted where:

  • There is no readily accessible means of communication.
  • Work which is remote or isolated from the assistance of others due to the location, nature or time.
  • Operation or maintenance of hazardous equipment.
  • Handling of hazardous substances or use of large volumes of flammable solvents.
  • Work which is too hazardous for a person to perform alone.
  • Working with large or aggressive animals.
  • Maintenance or adjustments on energised electrical or electronic systems.

Under the following circumstances, working alone is permissible with management approval:

  • An authorised person is notified of the planned work, when it will commence and the expected completion time.
  • Staff and students may work alone in office and other low risk environments.
  • An easily accessible means of communication to gain assistance in an emergency is available.
  • Undertake all required personal security measures e.g. lock doors, walk in well-lit areas.

The campus emergency number is 6488 2222. UWA Security (phone 6488 3020) offer a 24 hour escort service to vehicle or residences near the campus and also offer lectures on personal security. To request their assistance telephone 6488 3020 allow up to 20 minutes notice for the escorting service.

WorkSafe WA provide guidance regarding working alone and how it influences the risk of harm or injury on the Department of Commerce website.

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