Working Alone Regulations

Employees working alone or in isolation may be injured or at risk for violence when assistance is not readily available to them.

BC’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation was significantly amended in 2008, and thereafter in 2009 and 2012, requiring employers to take measures to protect all workers and reduce the potential risks associated with late night and isolated shifts.

The requirements are aimed at improving safety for employees who work alone, in isolation, and during late night hours. The call for improved conditions for people working alone followed the tragic 2005 death in Maple Ridge of late night gas attendant Grant De Patie.

The requirement applies to all workers in the province. As a result, restaurants, coffee shops, fast food outlets, pubs, bars, private liquor stores, and hospitality employers are wise to sharpen their knowledge of the amendments to ensure compliance.

THE AMENDMENTS FALL UNDER THREE CATEGORIES:

  • working alone or in isolation
  • late night hours and late night retail premises
  • prepayment for fuel

The amendments included in the first and second categories are those most likely to impact some hospitality employers. The first category is relevant to all employers and applies to working alone or in isolation. Before a worker is assigned to work alone or in isolation employers must identify, eliminate and control hazards. Employers must also develop and implement a procedure for checking the well-being of any worker assigned to work alone or in isolation. The frequency of checks will depend upon the hazards and risks identified.

WORKING ALONE OR IN ISOLATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY OCCUPATIONS:

  • Retail (convenience store) employees
  • Delivery drivers
  • Cleaning staff
  • Maintenance staff and custodians
  • Taxi drivers
  • Security guards
  • Warehouse workers in cold rooms or freezers

The second category applies to staff working alone during late night hours at a late night retail premise. Late night hours are defined as the hours between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am; a late night retail premise is defined as a retail location that is open to the public during these hours. For this group, employers must develop and implement a written procedure for handling money safely and train workers in the procedures. During late night shifts, the employer must also do one or more of the following:

  • (i) ensure that the worker is physically separated from the public by a locked door or barrier that prevents physical contact with or access to the worker;
  • (ii) assign one or more workers to work with the worker during that worker’s assignment;
  • (iii) implement a violence prevention program.

Employers who choose the third option will be required to implement all of the listed controls, which include ensuring, among other things, that there is good visibility both into and out of the premises, that there is limited access to the inside of the premises, and that the premises is monitored by video surveillance. In addition, employers will be required to undertake regular security audits by a qualified and independent person to confirm that all the controls have been implemented. In addition, workers assigned under the third option to work late night hours must be at least 19 years of age and be provided with personal emergency transmitters that are monitored by the employer, a security company, or other person designated by the employer.

EXAMPLES OF LATE NIGHT RETAIL PREMISES:

  • Self-serve restaurants, coffee shops, and fast-food outlets
  • Private liquor stores
  • Pubs and bars
  • Pool halls and bowling alleys

LATE NIGHT RETAIL PREMISES DO NOT INCLUDE:

  • Taxi cabs or limousines
  • Hotel check-in desks
  • Street vendors (food or merchandise)

WorkSafeBC offers many tools to help employers understand the requirements and to implement any required changes. An employer handbook offers tips for conducting a risk assessment, controlling and minimizing hazards, safe work practices and training workers, plus various forms to implement a protection plan. For more information concerning the working alone requirements, visit the WorkSafeBC Website.

Information provided by Ryan Anderson, an employment lawyer with Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP. The information provided in this article is necessarily of a general nature and must not be regarded as legal advice. For more information about Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, please visit mathewsdinsdale.com.