Working Alone

Working alone refers to activities where a worker is not directly supervised and in the event of injury, illness or emergency, immediate assistance is not readily available. Weekdays before 8:30am and after 4:30pm, weekends, and holidays are considered “after hours” and periods where emergency help may be delayed.

While not ideal, there are circumstances that may require work to be scheduled after-hours, particularly in research and teaching activities. Security measures are in place after-hours:

  • External doors to buildings are secured in accordance with University Standards
  • Red emergency phones with a direct line to Campus Safety Services (CSS) are available across campus
  • DUS offers the Working Alone Program, a check-in service for those working late at night.

The Working Alone Guidelines provide procedures and preparatory steps to ensure a worker is safe while working alone.

Creating a Safety Plan

A Working Alone Safety Plan is required for tasks that present a medium or high risk. The Safety Plan will include

  • Supervisor’s contact information
  • Description of the activity/tasks
  • Names of all workers who may perform these tasks alone
  • Contact information for various University services
  • Hazard Assessment
  • Equipment that will be used
  • Emergency Response Plan (ERP)
  • Location of nearby emergency resources
  • Training Requirements
  • Hazard Classification

The Hazard Assessment will determine whether a Working Alone Safety Plan is required. Regardless of whether a safety plan is needed, all workers must always:

Assessing Risks

Working alone is inherently more risky. Assessing the risks associated with a task to be performed is a critical first step in determining whether a worker can work alone safely. Tasks can be defined as either low, medium, or high risk.

  • Low risk activities produce minimal hazards in the activity and work environment.
    • Safety Plan is not required.
    • examples: office work, report writing
  • Medium risk activities involve minor hazards in the activity and/or work environment, but the risk is decreased by control measures.
    • Safety Plan is required.
    • A check-in procedure must be in place as part of the safety plan.
    • examples: maintenance tasks involving hazardous materials, lab work with minimal risk
  • High risk activities involved considerable hazards in the activity and/or work environment, but the risk is minimized by control measures.
    • Safety Plan is required.
    • A check-in procedure must be in place as part of the safety plan.
    • Undergraduate students cannot work alone while performing high risk tasks.
    • examples: working with highly hazardous chemicals or electricity, working in an area with a potential for violence

Prohibited activities

Prohibited tasks are activities whose risks are deemed too significant to allow a worker to work alone safely. The following is a non-exhaustive list of prohibited activities:

  • Confined space entry
  • An installation, equipment, or conductor operating at a nominal voltage of > 300 volts, except while testing equipment or troubleshooting
  • Electrical transmission systems rated > 750 volts
  • A portable ladder that exceeds 6 m in length and is not securely fastened or work with a ladder that is likely to be endangered by traffic
  • Quick-acting acutely toxic materials
  • Working with air, light, heat, mechanical shock (struck, vibrated, otherwise agitated), and water-reactive materials
  • Use of supplied air respiratory equipment or self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)
  • Risk of drowning or suffocating
  • Welding operations
  • Machine and power tools that may cause critical injury
  • Handling animals that are capable of causing critical injury or paralysis and/or life-threatening zoonotic disease
  • Any high-risk activity if the worker is an undergraduate student.

In addition to the above, any tasks deemed to require > 1 person based on a risk assessment by EHS are also prohibited. Please consult the Working Alone Guidelines for more information about prohibited activities.

Emergency Response Plan

The Emergency Response Plan section of the Working Alone Safety Plan must include:

  • Emergency Contact Information
  • Response Procedures
  • Emergency Equipment Available

All applicable Emergencies (Medical, Fire, Chemical Spill, Biohazard Spill, Radioactive Spill, other) must be completed in detail.

In addition to emergency procedures, the location of emergency equipment and supplies must be indicated. Examples include the nearest fire extinguisher, first aid kit, eyewash station and emergency shower.

Check-in Procedure

Medium and High-risk Working Alone activities require a check-in procedure to be in place. A check-in procedure must indicate:

  • A main contact person, as well as a backup individual. These individuals must be familiar with all the parameters of the check-in procedure.
  • Whether verbal or visual checks are required
  • Check-in frequency. A lone worker performing riskier activities should check-in, or be checked-on, more frequently.
    • The worker should always check-in at the beginning and end of the activity.
    • If special situations would warrant an interim check-in, determine what those would be.
    • Determine when the contact person should check-in with the worker.
    • Maintain a check-in record.
  • Pick a code word to be used to identify or confirm that help is needed.
  • Develop an emergency action plan to be followed if contact with the lone worker is not achieved within a certain time frame.
    • For example: if the worker cannot be reached or does not respond within 15 minutes, the designated contact person will arrange for face-to-face contact to be made with the employee by either driving to the University or by calling Campus Safety Services (CSS) to have a patrol officer make contact.

Alternatively, Campus Safety Services (CSS)offers the Working After Hours Program for those working alone after-hours. However, in the event of an emergency on-campus, DUS officers may not be able to continue checking-in on the worker.



According to the Occupational Health & Safety Act, Supervisor’s are responsible for the safety of those under their supervision. When a worker will be working alone, the supervisor is responsible for:

  • Following the Working Alone Guidelines
  • Conducting hazard assessments, completing the Safety Plan, and communicating hazards to their workers
  • Ensuring effective methods for communication are available to workers
  • Establishing a check-in procedure, periodic site visit, and/or a final check-in based on hazard assessment recommendations
  • Documenting when working alone is permitted and/or prohibited and ensuring this is effectively communicated to all workers
  • Scheduling potentially hazardous work for when supervisors and appropriate help will be available.


Any person performing work or services at Carleton is considered a “worker” and has the same responsibilities and protections as an employee (e.g. undergrad students, unpaid placements, etc..). If a worker will be working alone, they are responsible for:

  • Obtaining permission from their supervisor prior to working alone
  • Participating in the working alone hazard assessment and the completion of the Safety Plan
  • Following all practices and procedures outlined in the safety plan
  • Maintaining regular communication as directed by their supervisor(s)