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Your Responsibility When Employees Work Alone

by fatweb


Scott Wilson is a partner in the employment law team at Duncan Cotterill Lawyers and can be contacted

The safety of employees who are working alone or travelling to work at unusual times is under the spotlight. This follows the killing of Radio New Zealand journalist Phillip Cottrell in central Wellington last December when he was walking home from work, and the death a month earlier of a security guard who was on duty alone at an Auckland construction site.

These tragedies highlight the importance for all employers to evaluate whether they have employees working alone and what should be done to protect them from harm, including violence.

New Zealand does not have specific working alone laws, but employers have a broad duty to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work. Working alone is considered to be a hazard and employers have a legal obligation to manage hazards at work.  This means that, in general, employers should:

•    Carry out hazard assessments specific to working alone situations

•    Create or update policies and procedures to eliminate or reduce the risks associated with working alone.
This could include a verbal or visual check-in procedure at certain times

•     Provide an effective means of communication for employees working alone in case of emergency, accident or illness

•     Provide training to employees who will be working alone.

While there is no legal definition of ‘working alone’ in New Zealand, this shouldn’t deter employers from effecting working alone policies and procedures.

And although no prosecutions have occurred against employers in New Zealand, a Canadian company was recently charged and fined after a female security guard working alone was attacked and raped. The key message for employers is: consider whether working alone policies and procedures need to be implemented or updated to help keep staff safe and to reduce the risks of working alone.

Disclaimer: the content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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