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Working conditions

Working alone

Working alone - Ingressi

Working alone is common in many professions. Working alone refers to employees working in physical or social isolation without direct contact with other employees.

Working alone - Yleistä

Physical isolation refers to employees who are not in contact with their colleagues. Other individuals present in the workplace, such as customers in a shop or patients in a hospital, are no substitute for colleagues.

Social isolation refers to employees who do not have access to the support of their work community. Employees can also be professionally isolated, if they are the only representative of their profession among a group of employees. This can happen, for example, if an employee works in the premises of another employer without other professionals present.

Hazards and risks associated with working alone

Working alone is not harmful or dangerous as such. 

However, working alone can be a risk if, for example, the job requires the use of dangerous machinery or hazardous work methods in circumstances where the probability of a serious injury is higher than average. Employees working alone cannot get help as quickly as others.

Employees who work alone can also be more vulnerable to violence. The risk of violence can be greater in certain jobs simply on the basis of employees working alone.

Read more: Threat of violence at work

Working alone can also be a psychosocial workload factor. Working alone or in social or physical isolation from the rest of the work community even for short periods of time can raise employees’ workloads, especially in the presence of other workload factors.

Read more: Psychosocial workload

When you are working alone, particular consideration should be given to the risk of injury and violence as well as psychosocial workload factors.

Assessing hazards and risks associated with working alone

The employer must identify the tasks performed at the workplace in which employees work alone. The employer must also determine whether this work involves any evident hazards or risks to the safety and health of the employees concerned. Particular attention must be given to the risks of injury and violence as well as the psychosocial workload factors involved in different work tasks.

Ways to reduce the risks associated with working alone

The employer must take special measures when the analysis and assessment of the risks indicate that working alone may cause a heightened hazard or risk to the safety and health of the employee. Such work may include forestry work, work in the service sector and work performed at the customer’s home.

The employer must minimise the risks by ensuring proper arrangement of the working conditions. When planning the work, the employer must take measures to ensure that working alone does not cause any hazards or risks to the employees concerned. One way to mitigate the hazards is to shorten the periods of working alone. Ensuring the safety of the employees working alone may require changes in the physical working environment, working arrangements and tools.

The hazards and risks of working alone can be reduced by means of training and guidance. Familiarisation and training can help employees to cope with the demands of their job. Employers must ensure that their employees also follow instructions and safe procedures when working alone.

Communication and access to help

The employer must provide the employee with the means to communicate with the employer, the representative designated by the employer or other employees as required. The need for communication depends on the nature of the work, the circumstances and the location where the work is performed.

Employers must make sure that their employees have equipment suitable for calling for help. Employers also have a duty to call for help if they cannot reach their employee and there is reason to suspect that the employee has had an accident.

Circumstances in which working alone is prohibited

Pursuant to the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act, if a risk assessment shows that the hazards of working alone are too high in certain jobs or circumstances, working alone must not be permitted. Examples include firefighting, underwater construction and certain jobs performed in confined spaces. The safety of working alone also needs to be assessed if several threats have been made against the employer’s business or robberies committed in their premises in a short space of time and the safety of employees cannot be guaranteed by other means.

Young people (under 18 years of age) are not permitted to work alone if there is a clear risk of injury or violence inherent in the work.

Working alone - Lainsäädäntö

 

Legislation

Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002)

  • Section 8 – Employer’s general duty to exercise care
  • Section 10 – Analysis and assessment of the risks at work
  • Section 27 – Threat of violence
  • Section 29 – Lone working

Government Decree on work that is particularly harmful or dangerous for young people (475/2006, in Finnish)

  • Section 3 – Especially harmful work

Government Decree on the Safety of Tree Harvesting (749/2001, in Finnish)

  • Section 4 – Communications

Government Decree on the Safety of Blasting and Excavation Works (644/2011, in Finnish)

  • Section 6 – Communications and supervision