At select times, school staff members may be required to work alone at off-site locations, on school grounds or in unoccupied buildings, sometimes outside of normal school hours. Employees working in solitary environments are at an increased risk should they become injured and unable to seek medical assistance. If staff members are working alone off-site or in a building at times when other personnel are not readily available, a system to periodically “check in” with another staff member to ensure their safety should be used.
Here are a few examples of potentially at-risk circumstances that can arise when an employee is working alone:
- A teacher is decorating a classroom when the building is not occupied and falls while trying to decorate in hard-to-reach places.
- A custodian or maintenance staff member working from a ladder to perform overhead work tasks.
- A school administrator is alone in the building to receive a delivery of heavy boxes and sustains a strain lifting the boxes.
- A staff member working after hours experiences a personal medical emergency and is not able to request help or contact emergency services.
It is always safest when there is more than one person available in the building. If one person should become unresponsive or injured and unable to call for help, the co-worker can quickly assist them in seeking medical attention.
The following are best practices for solitary worker safety:
- Schedule tasks so employees don’t have to work alone. If there are physical tasks that need to be performed over the weekend, establish a time for the work to be completed when other employees will be present.
- Implement the “buddy system”: If employees plan to come to school after-hours, on the weekends or during school breaks, they should find someone to accompany them or notify someone of their location and anticipated return.
- Develop a co-worker check system in which a solitary worker is required to check in with a supervisor at regular intervals to let them know they are all right.
- Create a written policy that details how employees should perform dangerous tasks. In particular, the policy should require that they never perform the following tasks alone:
- Working on a ladder.
- Cutting trees or limbs.
- Welding or other hot work.
- Conducting electrical work.
- Operating heavy machinery.
- Encourage employees to take an extra moment before performing potentially dangerous tasks to decide if they need someone else available. Taking the extra time could be the difference between going home to their loved ones and taking a trip to the emergency room.
The people who work in your school are no doubt dedicated to their jobs, but they may make poor decisions in the name of getting their work done. Put safe work practices in place so they are less likely to be injured from taking shortcuts.
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