What is working alone?

Many workers are placed at risk because they are required to work alone. CUPE defines working alone as working at any portion of a worksite for any period of time as the only worker, where assistance is not readily available in the event of injury, ill health or emergency.

Why is working alone hazardous?

Many tasks require two people in order to be completed safely. Workers face increased chances of serious injury when working alone, and may suffer further injury or death if they are denied assistance. Competent supervision or guidance is not present.

Working alone can be particularly hazardous if a worker is at risk of:

  • Electrocution
  • Drowning
  • Falling
  • Traffic accidents
  • Burns
  • Violence
  • Exposure to extreme heat or cold
  • Working nights
  • Using explosives
  • Using pesticides
  • Lifting heavy objects

What should you do about working alone?

The first step is to identify tasks that require someone to work alone. To identify these tasks, members can use the survey in the CUPE Working Alone Guidelines. It is preferable to proceed with buy-in and cooperation of the employer, however if support is not forthcoming, locals should conduct the survey on their own. The survey results can help pinpoint problems and act as a basis for recommendations that the joint health and safety committee can make to the employer.

Recommendations can include:

Developing or re-examining employer policies regarding working alone. The policy should list all tasks with inherent dangers that should never be conducted alone, and ensure sufficient staff are available to enforce the policy. The policy should also instruct members not to attempt to perform work identified as hazardous without the assistance of a second person.

Developing written procedures covering dangerous work situations: what to do in an emergency; how to get help; reporting accidents or near misses; using alarms and communication equipment; responsibilities of supervisors.

Education and training requirements ensuring all workers fully understand the policies and procedures. The education and training must also ensure workers are fully trained to identify and address hazards they face in their work environment. Training must be offered to all new employees, and updates to training must be provided for all workers on a regular basis.

Find the working alone fact sheet and guideline at cupe.ca/health-and-safety

Help CUPE track workplace hazards. Complete our working alone survey: cupe.ca/working-alone