There are many employees in the workplace who work alone or in remote areas where injuries and illnesses can occur, resulting in delays in emergency response or medical assistance.
They include people who work outside normal business hours, such as:
Lone and remote workers are found in a wide range of situations and include those who work by themselves or in an environment where help is not readily available in the event of injury, illness, or an emergency.
OSHA's underground construction rule for tunnels, shafts, chambers, and passageways (29 CFR 1926.800) requires "[A]ny employee working alone underground in a hazardous location, who is both out of the range of natural unassisted voice communication and not under observation by other persons, shall be provided with an effective means of obtaining assistance in an emergency."
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Although there are no other federal OSHA rules that specifically apply to working alone, the broad requirements of the safety and health regulations still apply.
For example, OSHA’s rules for medical treatment and first aid (29 CFR 1910.151 for general industry and 1926.50 for construction) require employers to ensure that someone at the worksite is trained to administer first aid and that first-aid supplies are available unless there is a hospital, clinic, or infirmary for treating injured employees in close proximity (within 3 to 4 minutes for life-threatening emergencies). This means medical treatment and first aid must be made immediately available to all employees, including lone workers.
OSHA’s General Duty Clause states, in Section 5(a)1, "... [e]ach employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to his employees ..."
In some cases, you must continuously monitor the work conditions of workers that are exposed to hazards in order to ensure worker safety. This means you have to identify the hazards of the work, assess the risks of injury or illness, and put measures in place to eliminate or control the hazards and risk of injury.
Remember, too, that there are some high-risk activities where safety regulations require that at least one other person be present. For example:
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If you have any employees who are out in the field and working alone, you need to consider what safety measures to take to protect their well-being and security.
A well-thought-out safety program for these employees is an essential first step. Hazard control measures may include:
Be sure also to take steps to check that safety control measures are used. And, of course, review your plan from time to time by conducting a risk assessment in areas where employees work alone to ensure that your control measures are still adequate.
Tomorrow, recommendations for protecting lone and remote workers.
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