Guidance about working alone

What is working alone?

Many activities in mining operations are undertaken by a worker where verbal or visual communication with colleagues is not possible. Under these circumstances, the person is considered to be working alone. The potential risk of an existing hazard is increased, possibly to a level necessitating extra precautions.

Managing the risks

The manager of a mine or an exploration manager is responsible for ensuring that the risks associated with any person working alone are evaluated, and control measures are implemented to minimise the risks.

Underground, there is a legislative requirement for workers working alone to be inspected, visited or communicated with at least every two hours. If hazardous conditions exist at any workplace, no-one is to work alone and the worker must be in sight of another worker. Depending on the risks, the manager may direct that more frequent contact is required.

It is recommended that a similar approach be adopted for surface operations, to meet the duties under section 9 of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994.

The manager at a mine is responsible for ensuring that the risks associated with any person working alone are evaluated, and control measures are implemented to minimise the risks. There should be a system in place for contacting the individual so any emergency that might arise can be handled appropriately.

Refer to r. 10.5 of the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995 for specific requirements for people working alone while underground.

Refer to s. 9 of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 for details of employer’s duties.

Recommended actions

Supervisors and those working alone should ensure that:

  • they are aware of the high-risk hazards and activities in their work area
  • all practicable measures are taken to control the hazards and minimize the risks associated with their work
  • they are familiar with the appropriate safety equipment and its location (e.g. emergency safety showers, first aid equipment, satellite phone)
  • the agreed communications strategy is adhered to.

Where a person working alone is injured in the workplace, there should be measures in place to minimise the time that the injured person remains unattended. These measures may include:

  • supervisors or other competent persons visiting the workplace at a frequency deemed necessary based on a formal risk assessment
  • the person working alone making contact with another worker at frequent pre-arranged intervals
  • video surveillance of work areas
  • alarming all safety showers that are likely to be used in an incident scenario where an operator is unable to use their two-way radio
  • where practicable, providing a personal duress alarm system.

Related information

Below is the list of links that you may find useful.

Minerals Industry Safety Handbook, Edition 1, Section 3.2 - People Working Alone  is available from the NSW Department of Mineral Resources.

The Western Australian Department of Commerce has a webpage on frequently asked questions - working alone.

Information on Lone workers is available from the UK Health and Safety Executive’s website.

Out there! National guidelines for working alone, overseas or in a remote locality (second edition) is available for purchase from the Commonwealth Safety Management Forum.

Comcare has produced a Guide to remote or isolated work.