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Working Alone in Canada Depending on where you may conduct business, chances are that lone worker legislation is now the law. Regardless, morally, it is important that your valued employees and contractors have lone worker protection in the event that they are in trouble, and that they have assurance that help will be on the way. There are a number of areas in which occupational health and safety legislation sets requirements that must be met for anyone working alone. While the legislation and regulations vary from province to province (and the federal jurisdiction), the same principles tend to apply. These include the following: the requirement to provide adequate supervision; the "due diligence" requirement to take all measures reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker; duties of employers and supervisors to advise a worker of a hazard; specific requirements for certain tasks, such as diving or confined space entry, that have explicit requirements for the number of people required to be present; and regulations that deal specifically with working alone in some jurisdictions (such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia). In Manitoba, which has a regulation dealing with working alone, the practice is defined as follows: "Working alone means the performance of any work function by a worker who (a) is the only worker for that employer at that workplace at any time, and (b) is not directly supervised by his or her employer, or another person designated as a supervisor by his or her employer, at any time." This, by itself, does not constitute a health and safety hazard, however. The regulation imposes requirements only "where a worker is working alone in circumstances which may result in injury, health impairment, victimization through criminal violence or other adverse conditions..." In other words, working alone becomes a hazard only if there are additional circumstances that begin to multiply the risks. Defining those "circumstances" may be done in a standard and organized way by analyzing the risk factors associated with working alone. These factors include the following: the time and distance the worker is from sources of help in an emergency; the length of time the worker is out of contact with supervision; the degree of access to communication; the presence of hazards associated with the work being performed; and the presence of hazards associated with the environment in which the work is done. The risk-factor approach to dealing with any health and safety problem is particularly useful in two ways: First, it brings a degree of order and method to the analysis of the job, the task and the situation; second, it provides that analysis in terms that translate readily into worker safety solutions. The total risk associated with a given situation increases if any one of the risk factors is high - if the worker is hours away from help, for example, that factor alone would be cause for alarm. However, risk starts to climb rapidly when two or more factors act together - such as unavailability of communication and a hazardous task.
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