Do you know your lone worker legislation? Tips to remain compliant for Canadians working solo
By Gen Handley
On May 9, 1992, a tragic incident unfolded as 26 miners from Nova Scotia perished while heading to their daily duties at the Westray mine.
The profound loss of these individuals inflicted immeasurable grief upon the close-knit community of Pictou County. Nevertheless, amidst the sorrow and despair, a glimmer of hope emerged, leading to positive outcomes in lone worker safety.
While the Canada Labor Code and its regulations had existed for more than 20 years at that point, the catastrophe was turned into a catalyst for legislative change, resulting in the Westray Law (formerly Bill-C45), which amended the Criminal Code so that organization would be legally liable and responsible in a worker’s injury or death.
Since then, federal legislation, as well as provincial and territorial work safety protections, have helped protect countless Canadian employees, including lone workers who face unique occupational hazards and are required by law to be kept safe while performing their jobs.
Federal, provincial laws
The federal government says the Westray Law “requires all organizations and individuals who undertake or have the authority to direct how others work or perform a task, to take all reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to the person performing the work or task, and to any other person.”
Failure to do so could not only result in harm to your employees, but also steep fines and serious organizational damage.
Additionally, the 10 provinces and three territories may have their own individual Occupational Health and Safety regulations for lone workers. For example, in British Columbia, companies must comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OHSR) developed by WorkSafeBC.
According to Section 4.21 of the regulations, employers are required to implement procedures and protocols that will monitor the well-being of people working alone or in isolation.
Alberta also has its own distinct Occupational Health and Safety regulations concerning lone workers. Companies operating in Alberta must adhere to the Occupational Health and Safety Code developed by Alberta Labour.
Within this code, specific provisions are in place to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals working alone or in isolation. For example, Part 28 Working Alone of the code mandates employers to conduct a hazard assessment for lone workers, implementing appropriate control measures to mitigate risks. Additionally, employers are required to establish communication procedures that enable regular check-ins and facilitate prompt emergency responses. These regulations in Alberta exemplify the province’s commitment to prioritizing the protection of lone workers, fostering a work environment that promotes their safety and security.
Wondering how to ensure compliance with various lone worker safety legislation and regulations while effectively safeguarding your teams, as well as lone and remote employees? As you delve deeper into this discussion, you will discover practical strategies and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) practices that not only enable compliance but also prioritize the well-being of your team members and organization, fostering a secure and safe working environment for all.
Navigating safety compliance: best practices for a working alone
Safety compliance can be a challenge for a number of reasons including staying updated on changing or amended legislation and taking the appropriate steps to satisfy any modified OHS requirements. On top of that, it can be difficult incorporating new mandatory safety-related practices and protocol within a team — particularly one with a high number of lone workers performing their jobs in different geographic areas.
One of the most effective strategies to get employees and management aligned with important safety protocol is to perform a thorough hazard assessment of the work environment. Completely transparent and collaborative, a hazard assessment must include feedback from all levels of the organization who are present at some point in the identified work environment.
Hazard assessments aren’t performed once or even occasionally. Depending on the safety risks in your industry, they will need to be done on a regular basis to adapt to any potential changes in the environment itself as well as changes in staff and what they are required to do.
Research your regulations
Once an assessment of your safety hazards has been completed, it’s time to research any local OHS legislation and regulations that apply to your organization. Set up reminders to check the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s (CCOHS) website for legislative updates as well as the OHS regulations that apply to your province or territory.
The wording of safety legislation can be confusing and ambiguous, making it unclear how or if it impacts your lone and remote employees. Reach out to the CCOHS, your legal counsel, or other industry professionals/colleagues for explanation and clarification if you’re unsure; after all, the well-being of both your people and company is at stake.
Develop policies and protocols
From the identified safety hazards in the assessment and research safety legislation, begin to develop lone worker safety policy with corresponding protocols to mitigate said hazards. A lone worker policy educates the employer and employees about the risks of lone work and provides them with the necessary information on how to best respond to emergencies and make informed decisions for their safety.
Managing a large portfolio of safety protocols, procedures and policies can be challenging. Prioritize safety training and education, which not only engages employees and builds stronger relationships, but also results in the new steps and practices resounding longer within the staff.
When determining who works alone within your organization, ask certain questions like:
- Do they do their work in a public place?
- Does the employee travel alone?
- Do they perform their job duties in the presence of clients?
- Are they also working in a remote area, in addition to being alone?
- Does the employee face unique hazards due to isolation or communication challenges?
Safety training and education
A key component of staff-wide adoption of safety protocols is the communication of the reasons why these practices are being incorporated and how they will improve the company and employees’ safety.
This can be communicated through internal communications channels such as company intranet sites and apps. However, if you want deeper engagement, hold safety training sessions and workshops where in-person interaction and communication can take place.
Some of the most simple safety strategies are also the most effective including safety check-ins performed by the lone worker to confirm their well-being with the employer or safety monitor.
Performed at pre-agreed-upon times and intervals, the lone worker can check in manually with a simple phone call or with an automated system such as a lone worker safety app which can reduce the dangers of human error, notifying people of missed check-ins and emergencies.
Update and adhere regularly
While every piece of OHS legislation is approved and finalized by your local governing body, none of these laws and regulations are truly set in stone as they evolve with changing circumstances and challenges. Bookmark the CCOHS website well as follow its social channels on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts to make sure you don’t miss any updates; you should also sign up for their monthly OHS newsletter.
What’s most important is that you are aware of the dynamic safety landscape and what that means for your lone workers and organization. With increased awareness comes improved compliancy and corporate security, and as a result, safer and happier people working for your company.
Gen Handley is a Marketing and Growth Coordinator for SafetyLine Lone Worker, an automated, cloud-based lone worker monitoring service that helps companies protect remote or isolated workers. Gen has more than 10 years of freelance writing and marketing experience.