Working Alone or in Isolation could cover a wide variety of situations, such as:
- working after hours or on weekends, public holidays or during school holidays
- working in a part of the school that is isolated, so an employee would not be able to readily summon assistance in the event of injury, illness, violence / aggression or other emergency situation.
Whenever there is a need for employees to work alone or in isolation, senior management has a responsibility to ensure their staff is able to carry out their work safely. This can be achieved by conducting a risk assessment to identify all hazards, and implementing suitable risk controls.
Once the risk assessment has been completed senior management should document any agreement, provide approval and ensure the agreement is signed by all parties.
When completing a risk assessment senior management should consult with employees and / or health and safety representatives. The following should be considered when carrying out the risk assessment:
- Access and egress into any areas within the school.
- Medical and emergency assistance that may be required, their availability and how employees will request assistance in a medical emergency.
- The level of supervision that may be required.
- Any possible consequences of unattended substances, equipment or experiments in the area, and the level of training held by the person involved.
- What security is in place (compare when vacated and occupied).
- Means of communication between staff and senior management already in place.
- Disclosure and consideration of any pre-existing medical conditions that may give rise to a dangerous or life threatening situation when working alone or in isolation.
Once the risk assessment has been completed and any risk controls implemented, it is suggested that senior management implements an approval process for any employees wishing to work after hours or on weekends, public holidays or during school holidays.
The risk assessment and subsequent approval should be documented and signed off by senior management and all affected employees. For guidance on whether “block approval” should be provided for a group of employees or individual approval issued, see the Approval table below.
There are various risk controls that can be implemented to ensure the safety of employees when working alone or in isolation. Below is a list of various risk controls that could be implemented:
- implement a communication process, such as sending a text to a designated person when employee arrives and departs the school, and welfare texts every 2 hours if working for more than 2 hours
- implementation of a Lone Worker App such as WorkSafe Guardian, myCareTrack or GeoPro
- implementation of a Lone Worker Safety System such as SAFE-T Card
- looking at design, such as barriers to prevent unauthorised access, layout of consultation / interview rooms to provide better visibility, installation of CCTV etc.
- installation of duress alarms in work areas where there is a risk of violence (e.g. reception)
- buddy system for staff working after hours or on weekends, on public holidays or during school holidays
- limiting access to the school outside of normal business hours, as well as restricting the amount of staff that have keys / swipe card access to the school
- training for staff working alone or in isolation in dealing with aggressive or violent persons.
In most workplaces it is unlikely that one solution will be sufficient to deal with the risks of working alone. More than one solution will probably be required (e.g. combine using a mobile phone to stay in contact with senior management with training in dealing with aggressive or violent clients).
Below is a table with a suggested approval format that schools may use.
Suggested Type of Approval
Block Approval may be given for this type of work, such as:
- Working in computer labs
- Office or clerical work.
Block Approval may be given for this type of work, such as:
- Painting or drawing
- Video and picture production
- Working with small amounts of hazardous substances where the risk assessment identifies the risk is moderate.
Individual Approval may be given to employees provided adequate controls have been implemented as described in legislation, Compliance Codes, Codes of Practice or Australian Standards. These documents identify current accepted work practices for high risk activities.
High risk hazards which may be identified include:
- Operating equipment or machinery, including workshop machinery capable of inflicting serious injury, such as lathes and power saws
- Working with, or near, highly toxic or corrosive substances where there is a significant risk of exposure to the substance, taking into account the volume used
- Using apparatus that could result in explosion, implosion, or the release of high energy fragments or significant amounts of toxic or environmentally damaging hazardous material
- Working at a height over two metres e.g. climbing ladders
- Working with significant volumes of hazardous substances
The above table is taken from DET’s Working Alone, in Isolation or from Home Procedure
Who is at risk?
Staff at risk may include:
- Social workers
- Speech pathologists
- School psychologists
- School nurses.
For Home Visits staff should:
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
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.
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.
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.