Working alone or in isolation 

Working alone or in isolation means to work in circumstances where assistance would not be readily available to the employee in case of an emergency or in case the employee is injured or in ill health.  Certain SFU work activities may be required to be completed alone or in isolation and precuations must be taken to ensure the safety and health of the employee.

See University Policy GP 39 Working Alone or in Isolation and it's appendices for responsbilities of upper level managers (Deans/Directors/Chairs), supervisors, the EHS department, and all employees; policy definitions; and risk assessment procedures.


WorkSafeBC regulations require employers to identify, assess and control risks associated with the work that is being performed alone or in isolation, develop and implement written procedures for checking on the well-being of the worker, train the worker and the individual assigned to check in, and review the check-in procedure annually or more frequently if the work environment changes or the procedures are not working effectively.

The work and research activities at SFU are very broad and have varying levels of risk when performed alone or in isolation. This is why SFU has decided to take a site-specific approach to ensuring the safety and health of employees who are required to work alone. 

Risk Assessment & Site-specific Working Alone or in Isolation Protocols

Supervisors must identify working alone or in isolation tasks and the employees who are required to perform them. After the tasks are identified, the supervisor must perform a risk assessment to identify any hazards and implement controls to fully eliminate or mitigate them. These hazards and controls or mitigations are documented in the site-specific working alone or in isolation protocol along with check-in procedures. These protocols are "site-specific" meaning they can cover the activities of an entire department or be more specific to a laboratory or field research activities. 

The GP 39 Risk Assessment Procedure provides detailed steps to aid upper level managers and supervisors in performing the risk assessment and developing  protocols. Supervisors simply need to populate pre-existing templates with site-specific information. See Resources for Supervisors for more information and templates.  

Once developed, these protocols must be reviewed by all employees in the department who are required to work alone or in isolation. The protocols must be reviewed annually or more frequently if it is found that they are not working effectively.


Periodic check-in is required when employees are working alone or in isolation. Check-in procedures need to include:

  • Frequency: The site-specific protocols identify the frequency of check-in for each activity based on the risk associated with the activity
    • Approved high/moderate risk activities should have more frequent check-in 
  • Who: Check-in is performed by the employee's supervisor or their check-in designate
  • How: The lone worker will check-in with the supervisor/the check-in designate at the agreed upon frequency; alternatively the supervisor/check-in designate will attend the work location and visually check on the employee
    • Teams/Slack
    • Phone/2-way radios
    • Email    
  • Emergency Procedures: Supervisor and lone worker need to establish what to do if check-in is missed and what to do in case of emergency

See Resources for Supervisors for more information and check-in templates.


Various SFU safety inspections include questions about working alone or in isolation procedures. The local joint health and safety committee inspections and laboratory inspections will request documention showing the precautions taken to protect employees who work alone or in isolation in these spaces.