Many employees work alone or in isolation, whether from time to
time or as a regular part of their work. In addition to an
employer's general statutory obligation to ensure a safe work
environment under the Workers' Compensation Act,
employers have additional specific obligations to protect employees
who work alone or in isolation under the Occupational Health and Safety
Regulation (the "Regulation").
Under the Regulations, "working alone or in isolation"
means to work in circumstances where assistance would not be
readily available to the employee, either in the case of an
emergency, or if the employee is injured or ill. Employers
must take the following steps to ensure the safety of employees who
work alone or in isolation:
Assess and identify the risks and hazards which employees may
face when they are working alone or in isolation, and inform
employees about them.
Take steps to eliminate or minimize the risks and hazards.
In consultation with the employees who are assigned to work
alone or in isolation, develop and implement a written procedure
for checking on the well-being of employees working alone or in
isolation (the "check‑in procedure"). The
check-in procedure must include:
(a) a designated person
who will contact the employee who is working alone and record
(b) time intervals
between checks which depend on the level of risk;
(c) a check‑in
at the end of each shift; and
(d) a procedure to
follow in case the employee who is working alone cannot be
4. Train the employees involved on the
5. Review the procedures at least
annually, or more frequently whenever there is a change in the
working arrangements or the check-in procedure is ineffective for
In addition, employers which operate a gas station, convenience
or retail store between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
must take additional steps to protect employees who work alone or
in isolation. If there is any risk of violence to an employee
working during such hours, then, in addition to the required
assessment, check-in procedure, and training described above, the
employer must develop and implement a written procedure to ensure
the worker's safety when they are handling money and must do
one or more of the following:
Ensure that the worker is physically separated by a locked door
or barrier that prevents physical contact with or access to the
Assign more than one worker during that shift; and/or
Implement a violence prevention program, including a time lock
safe that cannot be opened during the hours of 11:00 p.m. and
6:00 a.m., storage of cash and lottery tickets not reasonably
required during the shift in the safe, good visibility into the
store, limited access to the workplace, video surveillance, signs
visible to the public notifying them of the above, and a personal
emergency transmitter for the employee which is monitored by the
employer or a security company.
All employers, as part of their OH&S program, should regularly review the
circumstances in which their employees may be working alone or in
isolation, and ensure that they have policies and procedures in
place to comply with the Regulation and to minimize any health and
safety risks to employees.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
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