Safety Tips for Working Alone

Originally published 08/23/2017

Some construction jobs require an employee to work in an isolated environment for a period of time. Doing a job alone can be more hazardous than doing the same job in the company of others. If you’re injured, ill or trapped, there’s no one nearby to help or call for assistance. It’s a good idea to assess the situation and see if it’s possible to reschedule the job, so others can be present or close by. This is especially true if the project requires an employee to work at heights, operate hazardous equipment or materials, enter confined spaces or enter areas with insufficient lighting.

Supervisors should also:

  • Assess whether the worker might be more vulnerable than others. Consider age, disabilities and medical suitability of the individual.
  • Assess the worker’s levels of training and experience.
  • Make sure they know where their lone workers will be and have a system in place to touch base with and monitor them.

If you are working alone, consider these safety tips:

  • Talk to your supervisor and colleagues about your job, the hazards and how to minimize risks.
  • Ensure that others on your crew know where you will be working and when.
  • Have a check-in system in place. This could include:
    • Prearranged intervals of regular phone contact. Be sure your mobile phone is fully charged, or you have another communications tool in the event there’s no phone coverage.
    • Periodic visits to the site by a coworker or supervisor, so they can visually check on you.
    • Use of a “man down” or personal monitoring device that recognizes when a worker has stopped moving.
    • Arranging to call someone at the end of your shift to let them know you are OK.
  • Have a first aid kit, and know how to use it.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on-site at all times, and know how to use it.

Establish an emergency plan in case an accident occurs, and make sure everyone on the site understands it and knows what their responsibilities are. Consider publishing these helpful tips in your company’s health and safety policy statement.

Download the recording form here.

Mental Isolation

Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?

  • Sorry, I stepped on your foot; I just didn’t see you.
  • I ran over your bicycle because I didn’t see it behind the car.
  • Hey, watch out…that truck is going to hit you!
  • Move! That crane is lifting a load above you.

Those types of situations happen when we don’t purposefully make ourselves aware of what’s going on around us.

Sometimes we become so focused on our own activity that we block out everything else. We move into a state of isolation, as though nothing we are doing affects others and nothing they are doing impacts us. We don’t look for people or obstacles that might be in the way. This state of being may be fine when we’re sitting at a desk in an office, but it can have harmful consequences on a construction site. Construction is a dynamic process where the environment and conditions change on a minute-by-minute basis.

To ensure your safety and the safety of your co-workers, you must stay focused on your surroundings as well as what you are doing. Check out these tips for overcoming mental isolation on the construction site:

  • Consider driving as a safety-sensitive function, and assume that moving a vehicle could harm people or damage equipment.
  • Walk around a vehicle before getting into it to become aware of equipment or people that need to move out of the way. You’ll learn how much clearance there is between your vehicle and immovable objects.
  • Remain alert to changes around you.
  • Know the soundness of the surface you’re working on.
  • Know the reliability of the fall protection devices or other protective equipment in your area, and plan an escape route in case you need one.
  • Communicate your intentions to coworkers in your area. This could a quick conversation or wearing a high visibility vest they can clearly see you.