Guidelines for Working Alone in Hazardous Areas

Many people work alone at the University of Washington; working late in the office, laboratory, or a shop for example. Some jobs and tasks present a greater hazard and therefore a greater risk if attempted alone. Several injuries needing medical assistance have occurred while people were working alone, requiring them to rely on self-care until help was obtained.

Questions to Consider

  1. Is there a need for the employee or student to work alone?
  2. How will the employee communicate their need for emergency assistance (land line phone, mobile phone, etc.)?
  3. Whom do they call in the event of an emergency and are numbers posted?
  4. What emergency response equipment is available (first aid, spill kit, fire extinguisher, eyewash, or shower)?
  5. Is there a protocol to remotely check in and out (via phone, text, or email) with someone in charge of the space?
  6. Are there significant hazards that exist or may arise while the person is working alone such as:
    1. Energized electrical work, especially if greater than 50 volts.
    2. Working with rotating, cutting, or moving equipment and machinery.
    3. Lifting loads with a crane, hoists, or other equipment.
    4. Work that could result in a fall of any height.
    5. Working with hazardous chemicals or compressed gases that present acute physical or health hazards.
    6. Personal security while working in an unsecured area at night for example.
    7. Hot work (welding, brazing, grinding) if performed outside a designated hot work area.
    8. Working in a confined space.
Departments should examine job hazards and determine if there is a risk for employee injury while they are working alone, and communicate these risks to all personnel.  While some activities can be mitigated by various controls, procedures and protective equipment, there may be some activities should take place only when others are available to assist if necessary.