Working alone is described as any situation where the worker is alone and unable to get immediate assistance. This normally refers to afterhours work but it also applies to normal school hours where staff cannot be seen or heard by another person (working in isolation).
What is the risk?
The main hazard of working alone relates to the fact that no one is there in the event of an emergency. This may increase the likelihood and consequences of an accident such as, slips, trips and falls or the sudden onset of a medical condition (e.g. heart attack). Exposure to violence and poor access to emergency assistance are the two main risks when working alone.
Who is at risk?
There are a number of roles in schools that may require working alone or in isolation from contact with other workers. These may include:
- Administration staff
- Maintenance/ground staff
Suggested strategies for staff working alone
If staff are required or intend to work alone, the following strategies should be considered:
- Identifying situations where people may be working alone or in isolation from others
- Implementing appropriate pre cautionary measures for any tasks that are identified as high risk (e.g. hazardous chemicals, working at heights or operating hazardous equipment or machinery)
- An authorised person is notified of the planned work, when it will commence and the expected completion time
- An easily accessible means of communication to gain assistance in an emergency is available (e.g. mobile phone)
- Undertake required personal security measures (e.g. lock doors, school gates, walk in well-lit areas.
Who is at risk?
Staff at risk may include:
- Social workers
- Speech pathologists
- School psychologists
- School nurses.
- Contact the family and advise them of the visit and its purpose
- Establish who from the family may be home during the visit
- Conduct visits during daylight hours only
- Establish whether there are pets in the home that need to be restrained during the visit
- Gain as much information about the family as possible prior to undertaking the visit
- Ensure the vehicle used is adequately maintained (e.g. petrol, good tyres)
- Ensure they have a mobile phone with them that is charged
- Carry identification
- Remain only in the general living area of the house (kitchen, hall, lounge room)
- Call the contact person when the visit is completed
- Report hazards and incidents that you become aware of while attending home visits.
Suggested strategies for staff conducting home visits
Prior to conducting any home visit, a risk assessment should be conducted. This assessment should include:
- Details of issue being discussed, review of student file
- Any known history (for the student or family members) of:
- Violence or aggression
- Alcohol or other drug use
- Mental health issues
- Physical disability.
- Type of accommodation: house/unit/flat
- Property access issues: steps/paths/pets
- If there is any potential risk to staff safety, a home visit should not be conducted. Consider:
- An alternative location for the meeting
- First visits to a home be conducted by two members of staff
- A safety code word that conveys that something is wrong and the alarm should be raised. Select a word that will be easy for staff to include in a plausible sentence and is unlikely to be misunderstood
- A first aid kit should be a mandatory inclusion for any home visits (e.g. car kit)
- Ensure that the employee is aware of the schools policies and procedures for conducting home visits. Staff may also need training in how to deal with potential violence and incident reporting
- There should be an allocated contact person for staff members out conducting home visits to:
- Receive details about the visit (destination and start/finish times)
- Be available to receive contact from the staff members out visiting
- Make contact with the staff member should they not hear from them within 30 minutes of their expected return time.
- Activate the school’s emergency procedures if they fail to make contact with the staff member.
Stafety tips for staff when conducting a home visit:
Prior to entering the premises:
- Make a visual check of the external area. Check for things like whether there are visitors, large dogs roaming around, gates are easy to open, any potential hazards, etc
- Do not park in the driveway
- Do not stand directly in front of the door after ringing the bell, either move to the side or back from the door.
On entering the premises:
- Be professional and courteous at all times
- Politely ask who else is home at the time of the visit
- Position yourself near an exit where you can see the rest of the house
- If anyone arrives during the visit, terminate the visit.