OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
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Part 28 Working Alone

Section 394 Precautions required

Subsection 394(1) Effective communication system

The purpose behind “effective communication system” is to provide workers with a method of signaling their need for assistance. Common devices that meet the intent of this subsection include portable two-way radios, telephones, cellular telephones, satellite telephones, personal alarms and computer-based systems that achieve the same results. The key point is that the communication system must permit a worker requiring assistance to send a message or signal to someone capable of providing assistance to them.

Even with the best communication equipment, there may be times when it is not useable, the worker is rendered incapable of using it, etc. To ensure there is contact even in such cases, the “effective communication system” must include regular contact appropriate to the situation. As stated in this subsection, the contact must be regular and initiated by the employer or designate at intervals appropriate to the nature of the hazard associated with the worker’s work.

Subsection 394(2) Visit or contact

As alternatives to an “effective means of communication”, an employer can establish a system that includes visiting the worker, scheduling check-ins with other workers or designated persons, reporting to an office or particular person upon completion of a task, and visual or audible contact with other persons who can offer assistance when needed. The frequency of contact must be based on a hazard assessment. At a work site involving minimal hazards, the requirement may involve a conversation between workers at the time of shift change or reporting to work the next day. A more hazardous work situation may require regular check-ins or visits by a supervisor.

An effective means of communication or contact must always be provided by the employer in working alone conditions. An employer cannot, upon performing the hazard assessment, decide that a means of communication or contact is unnecessary. If a worker works alone at a work site in circumstances where assistance is not readily available when needed, a means of communication or contact must be provided.