Isolated Employees: What Is My Employer Required to Do to Protect Me?

The welfare, safety, and protection of your employees fall under your obligation as an employer. It is crucial to stay informed about any legislations or standards pertinent to your industry and geographical location that aim to safeguard the interests of your workforce. Additionally, organisations that adopt a remote work policy can enjoy the advantages of enhanced efficiency and contentment among personnel.

In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive has the duty of upholding and executing laws that pertain to workplace safety. Whereas, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety functions as the official organisation responsible for protecting the welfare of Canadian workforce in their workplaces.

The emergence of a new workforce demographic has led to a change in business practices. The evolving job market now offers numerous flexible work alternatives, providing employees with greater avenues to attain work-life balance, and fulfil their personal obligations.

Remote or flexible work arrangements, as offered by Works, offer more benefits compared to shortcomings, even though there might be some disadvantages to this practice.

This article centers on a challenging aspect of an employer’s responsibility, known as “your duty of care,” which we will examine closely. We will delve into the legal duties of an employer in safeguarding their remote employees, who are often referred to as “lone workers” for ease of reference.

Who are the individuals who work in isolation?

This term pertains to an individual who fulfils their work responsibilities without continuous supervision.

If you carry out your work autonomously, outside of a traditional office space, such as at home, while travelling, or at a café, you would be classified as a “lone worker.”

Tasks completed by someone working independently may encompass:

  • An online assistant software that operates exclusively in the digital realm.
  • A specialist with expertise in the practice of medical transcription.
  • A language translator or interpreter.
  • A website programmer and/or designer.
  • An individual working for a phone answering service as an employee.
  • An expert consultant in the field of technology.
  • An individual who specializes in planning itineraries.
  • An educator or personal instructor.
  • A person who professionally writes or edits text.
  • An individual who possesses a franchise ownership.
  • An individual who manages and coordinates social media.
  • An individual or organization that searches for missing children.
  • Evaluation and certification of a website’s validity.
  • An individual who specializes in organizing parties and events.

To what degree do you hold responsibility for this situation?

The interpretation of the term “duty of care” can vary depending on the source consulted. The Oxford English Dictionary defines responsibility as “a moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety or wellbeing of others”.

The “duty of care” is an employer’s legal responsibility to guarantee the physical and mental safety and wellbeing of their employees. This responsibility is a part of Mintzberg’s five Ps of corporate strategy, where the concept of “duty of care” assigns a responsibility to employers to provide a secure and healthy working environment for their employees and to take measures to protect them from harm.

Not upholding your duty of care can result in legal consequences such as fines and additional costs.

Compliance with the Canada Labour Code and the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations is mandatory for employers in Canada. Adhering to these regulations is crucial to ensure the safety and welfare of employees.

Criteria that are pertinent to the standards are:

Protection from fire hazards

  • Installation of carbon monoxide and smoke alarm detectors in suitable areas.
  • A tool that is used to extinguish fires.
  • Exit routes to be used in case of an emergency.

In the event of an emergency, what course of action should I take?

  • The creation of a dependable evacuation plan.
  • Availability of on-site first aid equipment.
  • Designation of a point of contact in the workplace during a crisis.

The significance of ensuring electrical safety

  • Ensuring that electrical sockets are grounded and not overloaded.
  • Using extension cords to prevent overuse and overloading.
  • Ensuring proper ventilation around electrical equipment.

Bill C-45 mandates employers to adhere to occupational health and safety standards and imposes fines for violations resulting in injuries. Nonetheless, currently there is no federal legislation put in place to monitor the safety of employees working alone.

On the other hand, it should be highlighted that numerous Canadian provinces have specific regulations that apply to remote and home-based workers. Irrespective of the specific phrasing of the rules, conducting risk assessments and taking measures to eliminate or lessen potential hazards is mandatory.

Only one legislation applies in ten jurisdictions across Canada.

  1. Except mines and federally licensed workplaces, all businesses operating in British Columbia must adhere to Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OHSR) outlined by WorkSafeBC.
  2. It is obligatory for employers in Alberta to conduct a hazard assessment and implement measures to mitigate potential risks. Additionally, employers must establish a dependable and efficient communication mechanism for emergency situations or unexpected events.
  3. In 2023, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations of Quebec were updated, incorporating Item (322) to cater for the safety of employees working alone. The amendment emphasized the need for monitoring to guarantee the safety of lone workers.
  4. Pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1996 of Saskatchewan, employers are obligated to conduct comprehensive inspections aimed at identifying and minimizing employee risks. Furthermore, employers should guarantee that their remote workers are in regular communication with one another.
  5. Manitoba’s Workplace Safety and Health Act and Regulations mandate employers to create and enact efficient safety protocols for employees working alone or in remote areas. Adherence to these guidelines is crucial to ensure the safety and welfare of all staff.
  6. As of yet, the provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia do not have legislation in place to safeguard lone workers. However, both provinces have a legal obligation under their Occupational Health and Safety Acts to ensure that employers provide “suitable” safety measures for staff working alone. Despite the absence of specific provisions for solitary workers in Nova Scotia’s Health and Safety Act, the general duty clause necessitates employers to ensure a secure work environment for their employees.
  7. As per the Yukon Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are obliged to take rational measures to safeguard the wellbeing of their employees in circumstances where there exists a possibility of severe injury or a lack of aid during an emergency. This encompasses scenarios that may present a high risk of incapacitation or where finding assistance may be difficult for the employee in case of an unfortunate occurrence.
  8. With the introduction of a code of practice in 2023, employers in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut were provided with guidance on how to ensure the health and safety of employees working alone. The code defines the concept of lone working, offers guidance on assessing potential hazards, and provides directives on how to work safely in solitary conditions.
  9. In 2009, the Occupational Health and Safety Act was amended by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to provide added protection to lone workers. These amendments require organizations to establish suitable protocols for regularly monitoring solitary workers. This guarantees that employees working alone receive ample support, supervision, and protection in their working environment.
  10. Since 1992, New Brunswick has maintained a policy to safeguard workers who may be required to work alone at any given time. To guarantee the welfare of their staff, organizations are mandated to satisfy the provisions of Section 51 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Safe practices for employees working alone

Ensuring the safety of employees working alone can be effectively achieved by providing them with the necessary training. This enables remote workers and their office-based counterparts to work efficiently and productively. Given the absence of a conventional office environment, lone workers require the relevant skills and knowledge to work independently, including computer science, network security, and other pertinent subjects. Moreover, staff handling confidential data should be trained on data protection regulations to ensure full compliance.

For employees, it is crucial to be cognizant of the correct means of setting up and administering their workstations, alongside utilizing display screen equipment (DSE) and other tools competently without compromising their health and safety, particularly in relation to their eyesight and posture.

Incorporating concise instructions for employees to adhere to in the aftermath of an accident or near-miss into your lone worker policy is of utmost importance. This should encompass directives on how to report the incident, alongside providing contact details for local emergency services should the need arise.

Empowering employees with the training necessary to comprehend their responsibilities and execute them in the absence of their managers and colleagues is essential.

In addition to these measures, acquiring strategies for managing stress and troubleshooting problems in uncertain circumstances can be beneficial.

Below are additional recommendations for the safety of your employees working alone:

  • Organizing tasks in a manner that avoids putting workers in hazardous situations.
  • The procedure of evaluating workplace risks and identifying potential hazards.
  • Thoroughly educating and training employees on health and safety concerns.
  • Ensuring the functionality of all equipment, from desks and chairs to electrical systems.
  • We are eager to solicit feedback from our remote workers regarding their job and work environment. Our objective is to gain an understanding of their perspectives on their responsibilities and any potential challenges they may encounter. We would greatly value their input on this matter.
  • To guarantee that our staff remains informed and accounted for at all times, establishing a dependable check-in and check-out system is crucial. Consistent communication with our employees can be maintained by regularly providing updates on pertinent matters, which could be communicated via email, text, or other suitable means. Moreover, we should contemplate introducing visible or audible methods of monitoring our employees, such as installing a timeclock or utilizing a barcode system.


The duty of care necessitates continuous attention instead of being a one-time occurrence.

It is important to regularly review your lone worker policy to ensure that it aligns with current best practices and applicable laws.

It is vital to remember the importance of periodically evaluating risks, particularly if there have been significant changes to the work environment.

If you are seeking to hire new employees, there’s no better option than Works. We manage every aspect of the human resources process, ensuring that you comply with all applicable laws and regulations. This makes it an extremely efficient and productive approach to finding the top talent for your organisation. Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you need to make a hire.

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