Council ready to adopt new working alone policy for town’s employees

By on April 30, 2014

CouncilBetter safe than sorry is the philosophy behind the new working alone policy that will soon be adopted for Town of Osoyoos employees by town council.

Work Safe BC now requires contact arrangements to be established, introduced and followed where workers are assigned to work alone and where they may not be able to summon assistance in the event of an emergency, said Gerald Davis, the town’s director of community services during a presentation to members of town council last Tuesday.

Staff has been working with Dennis McMullen and Associates, a professional firm that specializes in assisting municipal councils in forming workplace policies, and they have identified a number of areas that require procedures for staff who are working alone, said Davis.

A worker is considered to be working alone when he or she doesn’t have assistance that is readily available in case of an emergency, injury or ill health, he said.

“Work Safe BC wants us to implement this policy as soon as possible,” said Davis.

An acceptable procedure to follow when “working alone” is to call an external source at the start of a shift or emergency call out and then follow up with another call at the end of the shift or during your shift, depending on the nature of the risk involved, said Davis.

When an employee who is working alone finishes his or her work at a specific site, they will be trained to call the monitoring service and tell them that the task has been completed and if the duration of work is likely to be extended, the worker is responsible for contacting the service to advise them accordingly and to make necessary arrangements to ensure contact is maintained throughout the work.

In the event there is an issue or the staff person does not follow up, a procedure will be implemented to ensure the staff person is not at risk, he said.

The company, 4 Star Communications, specializes in this type of service and is used extensively by other municipalities, he said.

The price for the set up is only $35 and a monthly fee of $140 will allow up to 100 calls to be made by town employees who are working alone, he said. Any calls of more than 100 will be charged 75 cents per call.

“As part of our occupational health and safety program, we have a $5,000 budget for safety equipment and supplies,” said Davis. “The total expenditure last year was just over $3,000 and the annual cost for this program will be just under $2,000, which will provide adequate funds.

“Each department will be required to thoroughly review their respective working alone procedures and make sure they are familiar with the process. This can be incorporated with departmental crew talks on an annual, semi-annual or needed basis.”

Staff members that will need to follow specific procedures when they are working alone include building inspectors, public works staff on regular day shift, staff called out at night, Sun Bowl Arena, Sonora Community Centre and town office staff and work assigned outside of regular working hours (statutory holidays, weekends and evenings).

Mayor Stu Wells said he was pleased the town was formally adopting a working alone policy as it will invariably end up assisting town employees.

It only takes a few seconds to place a phone call at the start or end of a shift and will ensure employees who work alone are being checked on, said Wells.

If there are scenarios where the risk is high for an employee working alone, Wells said it wouldn’t be unreasonable to have that employee to call a supervisor once every hour to ensure he or she is safe and in no danger.

Work Safe BC policies state that every employee who could potentially work alone receive training on this new policy, said Davis.

Department managers will start to meet with employees very soon to discuss the details of the new working alone policy and it will be their responsibility to ensure that all workers understand the policy and penalties for not following the rules, he said.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

 

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