Working alone or remotely increases the risk of any job. Exposure to violence and poor access to emergency assistance are the main hazards that increase the risk of remote or isolated work.
Remote or isolated work: a definition
Remote or isolated workers may be isolated from help because of where or when they are working, or the nature of the work they are doing.
- For example, they may be working in locations or at times where it would be difficult for them to be rescued, get medical assistance or be reached by emergency services. Workers may face additional WHS risks if nobody else is around to help with difficult tasks, alert them to hazards or give a second opinion about how to safely do a task, or notice if they are fatigued or making mistakes.
Remote or isolated workers
A worker may be isolated even if other people are close by, for example a community nurse carrying out clinical visits at night. In this case the worker may require some form of duress alarm to enable access to help in the case of an emergency.
In contrast a hundred workers in a base camp in a rural area could also be considered to be remote and isolated workers. In this situation the business needs to consider whether these workers need access to a satellite phone in order to access medical or emergency services and ensure they are trained to use it.
- Providing an effective means of communication for remote or isolated workers means ensuring they can access assistance from emergency services.
Remote or isolated workers include:
- all-night convenience store and service station attendants
- sales representatives, including real estate agents
- long distance freight transport drivers
- agricultural workers, scientists, park rangers and others carrying out field work alone
- health and community workers working with members of the public but isolated from their colleagues.
In some situations a worker may be alone for a short time or for days or weeks in remote locations, for example on sheep and cattle stations.
Access to facilities
It is important to ensure workers operating alone and out of remote locations have access to clean, safe and accessible facilities that are in good working order. This includes first aid, toilets, drinking water, eating facilities and personal storage.
Maintaining the work environment and facilities
- Broken or damaged furniture, fixtures and fittings including chairs, plumbing, air-conditioning and lighting should be repaired promptly.
- The consequences of an incident when a worker is injured can be more serious if there is nobody to provide first aid or call for assistance. Specific measures should be put in place to ensure should an incident occur help is quickly received.
- Consumable items such as soap and toilet paper should be restocked regularly.
- Equipment and furniture such as toasters, fridges, lockers or seating should be maintained in good working order.
- Workplaces and facilities should be cleaned regularly, usually on a daily or weekly basis and take into account shift work, the type of work performed, the likelihood of contamination and the number of workers using them.
For information on risk management see the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks, model Code of Practice: Managing the Work Environment and Facilities and Identify, assess and control hazards.
SWA is not a regulator and cannot advise you about remote or isolated work. If you need help, please contact your state or territory work health and safety authority.