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Staying safe while working alone or remotely

Despite the health impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and how it has significantly slowed the global and domestic economy, Australian workers charged with essential roles remain at the forefront of society. Crucial roles are carried out by medical staff, teachers, child care workers, disability support staff, supermarket and supply chain personnel, and delivery drivers. Many other roles comprise essential services for people in our community, but some involve working remotely or require people to work alone.

Working remotely or alone can present increased risks to personal safety, and perhaps more so during a national health emergency.

Organisations and working individuals have a legal obligation to work together to manage risks in working remotely or alone. When working in isolation, it's important to be prepared for situations that could expose workers to harm.

Examples of situations where personal safety risks should be considered:

  • Going into the homes of others (e.g. if you are a mobile nurse or disability worker for remote communities) without a colleague
  • If visiting deserted workplaces without a colleague, to check on vital infrastructure or other matters relating to conducting inspections
  • Travelling on public transport to reach the workplace
  • Storing and counting parish donations at your home while the church is closed, and banking money alone

Personal safety can be compromised:

  • When working alone, as a person can be more easily exposure to the risk of a violent incident, and be less likely to be able to access emergency assistance. In the essential roles of mobile nursing or disability work, violence and aggression can be a dangerous aspect of a patient's medical condition, and some patients will suffer distress more severely during the pandemic situation. Stress under these circumstances may increase the likelihood of aggressive behaviour episodes and even violence
  • Working in remote locations because it could mean a delay in the ability to access emergency services and medical assistance, due to geographical distance. Poor mobile phone coverage can also present complications in remote locations
  • For people who work alone because they are unable to access help with difficult tasks such as manual handling, seek advice or a second opinion on how to perform a challenging task, or have the benefit of other people monitoring them for fatigue

Safety controls help to reduce risk

Remote and solitary work should be considered in all risk management plans for organisations, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ways you can actively mitigate risks:

  • Make it a requirement that duress alarms are worn by staff at all times to expedite access to emergency assistance
  • Maintain regular communication with remote and solitary workers, and document communications in a plan that more than one person will monitor
  • Record times if there is no response from remote and solitary workers and escalate the incident to the next stage of the organisation's risk protocol
  • Provide effective tools for communication, including Walkie Talkies if mobile phone coverage is poor
  • Ensure communication tools are serviced and properly maintained
  • Implement a system for maintaining any tools of trade (vehicles) for remote and solitary workers, and ensure regular system auditing
  • Ensure work environment and facilities are maintained and inspected in accordance with standards required under the organisation's work health and safety policy
  • Ensure adequate supply of personal protective equipment, and audit and restock supplies regularly
  • Ensure remote and solitary workers are provided with any additional resources they need to do their job safely. This includes handbooks, first aid supplies, and information on reporting incidents and hazards
  • Document your safety measures and protocols in a policy for people working remotely or alone to access and ensure workers are made aware of the policy.   

CCI offers a range of templates, checklists and additional resources for organisations to get practical help at:

Other Resources






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