Last week we answered some of the most common questions we hear about a specific work alone solution, the SafetyAware software. This week, in part two of our lone worker Q&A we’re tackling more general questions pertaining to legislation and best practices for employers with workers on site alone.
Working alone questions part 2: Legislation and two-way communication
Q: If you own a site but have contractors doing work on the site, are you criminally liable if you don’t have a lone worker program?
A: The short answer is yes. If you’re a site owner, you don’t have to force your processes or procedures on the contractors, but you are ultimately criminally liable if the contractor's employees are not protected. So as an example, if you had a contractor on your site and there was an employee who was assaulted – you could be held liable if that contractor didn’t have a lone worker procedure in place.
One thing that we recommend is that organizations include lone worker procedures as part of their vendor submission packages. So, if you work with contractors, have them include all those procedures as part of the bidding process, this way you can validate yourself that they are up to code.
Q: How often should employees check-in?
A: That’s certainly not an easy answer – nor one that has any single correct answer. We’ve seen some companies that have a static check-in procedure where it’s once every hour or every two hours. What we see often working the best is having a risk assessment on the front end when booking the work alone session and using the risk management practice of assessing impact and severity to determine how often someone should check-in. If you have a really high-risk situation that you’re going into, a more frequent check-in is more suitable, like every 15-30 minutes for example. For users looking to reduce their check-in timer only temporarily, the hazard timer is a great way to do so. Alternatively, if you have a situation that is relatively low risk, like taking a flight, you may decide to check-in at the beginning and at the end. Allow the risk to determine the frequency of the check-in.
Q: I have eight staff working in a building that has eight different building areas, while they all work the same shift, they do not cross paths – do I need a work alone program for all of them?
A: Yes, you do. When you look at the legislation, whether it’s in the USA or Canada, they do state that working alone or in isolation does not necessarily mean remote location alone, it can also be separated within a building where you don’t frequently come into contact with other employees. Working in a building also poses unique communication challenges – often times there is no cell phone capability or direct line of sight for satellite, so having a solution that supports either WIFI or has a landline will be important.
Another alternative is to utilize other personnel on site – for example, security guards or other employees could conduct a walk-around every hour just to check on all the other employees. If workers are isolated in different areas of the building and do not have regular contact that does require a lone worker monitoring program.
FOLLOW UP FROM ABOVE Q: I’ve hired a supervisor for that building; would that cover the work alone program?
A: That depends on if the supervisor is checking on each of those employees either verbally or by visiting them and checking their wellbeing at frequent intervals. If the employee is not on site, or regularly checking in with each individual it would not be sufficient. There needs to be periodic check-ins and confirmation that the employees are okay. In this scenario, it is important to be sure the person responsible for checking on employees is providing some sort of a paper trail or digital proof of check-in. If an incident occurs, you have to be able to prove that check-ins did happen.
Q: How do you maneuver around the challenges associated with the Alberta oil fields?
A: A lot of our customers that have operations in Alberta do have communication challenges because there are a lot of remote areas without cell reception, and a lot of them use satellite devices. Satellite devices could be as simple as using an InReach or SPOT device or something that enables two-way communication. Those are typically the way that employers in Alberta will comply.
Satellite devices are often used in tandem with other communication methods. For example, you have a smartphone app on your phone and you’re using that, but then you get to a location with no cell coverage, it would automatically sail over to a satellite device or sync with that device. Some sites, even at a remote location will have WIFI available, and in that case, WIFI connectivity would still be an option. That being said, most companies do choose satellite communication in the oilfield. That doesn’t necessarily mean every employee must have a device, you could have a pool of devices available so that when an employee goes to a location where you know there are communication challenges, they would check-out one of those devices and it would be associated with them on that particular day.
Gas Detection Plus Lone Worker Monitoring
It is also common for oilfield companies to utilize gas detection and lone worker combination devices. These types of devices are also common for workers in confined spaces. To learn more about devices that have dual functionality for gas detection and lone worker monitoring, please reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.