Working Alone Procedure in Australia: Work Health and Safety Compliance

As an Australian employer, it is a requirement under the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) 2011 for organisations to understand the hazards and risks faced by employees and to eliminate or mitigate those hazards and risks. For organisations with employees that work alone, this will include developing and implementing a working alone procedure that aims to protect the health and safety of their employees. The main objective of the WHS Act 2011 is to provide a nationally consistent framework to secure the health and safety of workers. In order to comply with the WHS Act 2011, your working alone procedures need to incorporate a process to eliminate or mitigate the risks that arise for these lone workers while undertaking their roles.

In this article, we will briefly examine Australian Work Health and Safety laws. We will discuss if and how it is legal for employees to work alone. We will explore an example of a compliant working alone procedure. We will also assess how a lone worker solution like SHEQSY safeguards employees and facilitates compliance.

Is it against Australian Work Health and Safety laws to work alone?

It is not against Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws to work alone, but every organisation must implement reasonable safeguards and working alone procedures to be compliant.

The Australian WHS Act declares that all organisations must:

  • provide a safe work environment
  • provide safe ways of working
  • provide any supervision needed for safety
  • monitor the health of workers and conditions at the workplace (1)

In Australia, each state has its own work health and safety laws and a regulator to enforce them. It is important to research your region’s specific laws and regulations and implement a solution that works for your organisation. (2)

When a lone worker procedure is implemented, the organisation must be able to demonstrate ongoing compliance with that procedure when an audit is conducted. A simple and effective way for organisations to demonstrate that they are taking reasonable steps to ensure the safety of lone workers, is to deploy a lone worker platform like SHEQSY that keeps a detailed history of lone worker activities for WHS reporting purposes. Learn more about SHEQSY here.

Victoria’s working alone legislation

Though Work Health and Safety laws vary by state, it is helpful to examine Victoria’s Occupational Health and Safety Act of 2004 (OHS Act). This Act is stringent, and therefore can be useful to set a health and safety precedent for your organisation.

It is not against Victoria’s OHS Act to work alone. However, the Act does require employers to eliminate or reduce risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably possible.

Regarding working alone, WorkSafe Victoria recommends employers to:

  • deploy communication and/or location systems
  • implement duress alarms
  • keep movement records (3)

Further, Victoria’s Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment Bill states that penalties for negligent manslaughter in the workplace include a maximum fine of $16.5 million for corporate bodies and up to 20 years imprisonment for individuals. (4)

SHEQSY’s lone worker platform helps keep your employees safe and provides accurate records to demonstrate compliance with your lone worker procedures as well as with Government WHS laws. Discover SHEQSY’s features here.

What is the purpose of a working alone procedure?

The purpose of a working alone (remote or isolated work) procedure is to provide guidance and information to an organisation’s workers to enable them to effectively and safely manage hazards and risks while undertaking remote or isolated work and to implement safe systems of work to identify, assess and control all reasonably foreseeable hazards and risks.

In implementing a working alone procedure, the organisation commits to providing a work environment that is safe for all workers and other persons by eliminating (where possible) hazards and risks, or where it is not possible to eliminate, effectively controlling hazards and risks as far as reasonably practicable.

Using SHEQSY to work alone

Below is an example of a working alone procedure that utilises SHEQSY to effectively and safely manage foreseeable hazards and risks faced by a lone worker.

In this example, we examine an in-office manager and a lone-working healthcare professional who is performing an in-home care visit with a patient.

Scheduling appointments & starting work

  1. The manager sets the work schedule via their calendar or scheduling platform that can automatically sync appointments with SHEQSY if enabled.
  2. To start an appointment, the lone worker opens the SHEQSY app on their smartphone.
  3. The app can be utilised for steps 3-4 with calendar integration enabled or skip to step 5. The employee views upcoming appointments and clicks “en-route” when they’re ready to travel to the appointment.

Travelling to the patient’s home (job site)

  1. The app links to Google Maps and Apple Maps to provide GPS navigation to the patient’s home, meanwhile, their manager receives a real-time view of the lone worker’s movements.
  2. The lone worker arrives and sets a safety boundary, allowing them to safely transit to/from their arrival location (e.g. parking spot) and the patient’s home.

Before & during the appointment

  1. The SHEQSY lone worker app can prompt the lone worker with a pre-start form that aligns with the working alone procedure and/or ask activity-specific questions.
  2. After one hour, the lone worker completes a periodic check-in via the app to confirm they are safe.
  3. If the activity will take longer than expected, the lone worker can extend the activity duration within the app.
  4. At any time, the lone worker can easily and discreetly activate a duress alarm to commence the organisation’s emergency escalation process.
  5. If the lone worker fails to check-in or extend the activity within a time threshold set by the organisation, then a duress overtime alarm will also activate to ensure the wellbeing of the employee is confirmed.

After the appointment

  1. The lone worker leaves the patient’s home, walks safely to their car and marks the activity finished in the SHEQSY lone worker app. Now that the employee is safe, the organisation no longer has real-time visibility of their location.
  2. Detailed history of the appointment including employee name, time, date and location is stored within SHEQSY’s secure platform so the organisation can demonstrate compliance with the working along procedure.

To learn how Epworth HealthCare (Victoria’s largest not-for-profit private hospital group) uses SHEQSY to safeguard employees working on their own, read this case study.

Safeguarding employees who work alone

SHEQSY makes it easy for organisations to maintain compliance with their working alone procedures and to effectively meet their obligations outlined in Australian Work Health and Safety laws.

With features including periodic check-in, simple and discreet duress alarm activation, real-time location sharing, and data monitoring and recording, SHEQSY enables compliance with your lone worker procedures.

Our team is available via web meeting to discuss your requirements, answer questions, provide product overviews, and assist with free implementation of the SHEQSY lone worker solution. To request a demo of SHEQSY, click here.



References:

  1. Work Health and Safety Act 2011
    https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2018C00293
  2. Work health and safety
    https://www.business.gov.au/Risk-management/Health-and-safety/Work-health-and-safety
  3. Working alone
    https://content.api.worksafe.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-06/ISBN-Working-alone-2011-05.pdf
  4. Victoria's new workplace manslaughter offences
    https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/victorias-new-workplace-manslaughter-offences