Managing risks

As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you have specific duties to manage the risks of remote and isolated work.  

The risk management process involves: 

  • identifying hazards  

  • assessing the associated risks 

  • implementing control measures to eliminate or minimise risks, and 

  • regularly reviewing control measures to ensure they remain effective.  

It is particularly important to be proactive in identifying risks of remote work as it may take longer to implement control measures in these locations.   

Identifying hazards 

Undertaking a risk assessment will assist you to determine what is reasonably required to keep workers safe.  

When looking into the risks with remote and isolated work, consider: 

  • how long the person might work alone for 

  • the time of day when a person may be working alone  

  • what communication tools are available 

  • the location of the work and access to emergency services 

  • the nature of the work  

  • the worker’s skills and capabilities 

  • the risk to mental health 

  • support the worker may need for their tasks. 

The model Code of Practice: Managing the work environment and facilities has more information about assessing and managing risks of remote and isolated work. 

Controlling risks 

Work environment 

Some ways to manage environmental risks in remote and isolated workplaces include: 

  • ensuring workers can access clean, safe and accessible facilities that are in good working order – for example, first aid, toilets, drinking water, places to eat and store their things 

  • repairing broken or damaged furniture, fixtures and fittings, including chairs, plumbing, air-conditioning and lighting 

  • maintaining equipment and furniture, like toasters, fridges, lockers and seating 

  • cleaning workplaces and facilities daily or weekly, taking into account shift work, the type of work, the likelihood of contamination and how many workers use them 

  • providing training, supervision and support, including what to do in an emergency 

  • restock soap, toilet paper and other consumables regularly. 

The model Code of Practice: Managing the work environment and facilities (Section 4.2 – Remote or isolated work) has more information on how to manage risks in the workplace. 

Emergency assistance 

Emergencies can be more serious if there’s no one around to assist, give first aid or call for help. 

To help manage this risk, you must: 

  • ensure workers have ways to access emergency assistance 

  • prepare an emergency plan

For example, providing duress alarms or alert systems so workers can call for emergency assistance if they are working alone or need to discreetly raise an alarm.  

Psychosocial hazards 

Remote and isolated work can increase the likelihood of workers being exposed to psychosocial hazards.  

These hazards include: 

  • lack of support – for example, they cannot easily ask questions, access resources or get help from supervisors or other workers 

  • workplace violence – for example, security guards working alone at night 

  • workplace sexual harassment – for example, from customers towards workers  

  • low role clarity – for example, where workers can’t easily discuss and clarify tasks 

  • high job demands – for example, a single worker cannot share tasks in peak periods if they’re alone. 

The effects of these hazards can be worse if a worker can’t access assistance when they need it. 

Being proactive will help you control these risks. For example: 

  • provide additional support during peak periods 

  • install physical barriers to protect workers from violence 

  • provide duress alarms 

  • have clear processes and procedures for workers to follow 

  • establish and maintain frequent communication with workers so they’re supported in their work and feel connected. 

Refer to the Safe Work Australia guidance for information on how to control these hazards.