Do any of your employees ever travel outside of mobile coverage?
If an employee is isolated from other persons because of the time, location or nature of the work then the employer must ensure that —
- there is a means of communication available which will enable the employee to call for help in the event of an emergency; and
- there is a procedure for regular contact to be made with the employee and the employee is trained in the procedure.
A satellite phone together with a planned call strategy can assist to meet those responsibilities. Some satellite phones are now available with tracking functionality and SOS emergency alert functionality. Don't risk lives & the heavy fines!
Remote & Isolated Worker Whitepaper
Pivotel has joined forces with multinational law firm, Baker McKenzie, to prepare an in-depth whitepaper detailing the legal OH&S requirements for organisations with remote and isolated workers across the country.
Failure to comply with the remote worker obligations can result in substantial fines being imposed on businesses and individuals. Individuals can even be sent to prison for reckless breaches of work health and safety obligations.
To comply with the obligations under WHS legislation, a person conducting a business if required to, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate or minimise the risks and dangers faced by remote and isolated workers.
Below is an excerpt from the whitepaper.
- Each person has a duty to take reasonable steps to avoid causing harm to other persons
- An employer or a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) has a duty to implement and maintain safe systems of work for employees and other persons
- An employer or person conducting a business must take reasonable care to avoid exposing employees and workers to reasonably foreseeable risks of injury
WHS Legislation – Managing the work environment and facilities
Queensland, Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and New South Wales
Regulations expressly require a PCBU to manage the risk associated with remote and isolated work, including ensuring effective communication with workers. The regulations impose specific penalties ($6,000) if this obligation is breached, in addition to penalties for breach of the general obligation. In addition, the Code of Practice (2011) specifies a minimum standard for managing risks associated with remote or isolated work, including through the use of:
- Personal security systems
- Distress beacons
- Satellite communication systems
- Appropriate training and instruction
- Radio communication systems
- Movement records
In addition to the general obligations, various states and regions have more specific requirements around the need to provide communication to remote workers.
The Victoria Workplace Amenities and Work Environment Compliance Code (2008) covers mobile, temporary, and remote work. The code states that ‘In an emergency, mobile and remote employees also need to be able to access a means of communicating that is reliable in their location, such as a satellite or mobile phone’ (110). The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (VIC) also impose a specific requirement for operators to provide an effective means of communication for anyone working alone at an isolated location at a mine.
The Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (3.3) state that:
If an employee is isolated from other persons because of the time, location, or nature of the work, then the employer must ensure that -
(a) There is a means of communication available which will enable the employee to call for help in the event of an emergency; and
(b) There is a procedure for regular contact to be made with the employee and the employee is trained in the procedure.
The Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016 state that the PCBU must provide a system of work that includes effective communication with workers. What constitutes an effective communication system will also depend on the sorts of risks faced by the worker (and may need to include panic systems). A communication system that has gaps in coverage or cannot be used in an emergency, is unlikely to be effective.
Each State, Territory or Country is governed by specific legislation. Refer to Appendix A on Page 21 for more information.
The legislation in each jurisdiction imposes a general obligation on PCBUs to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers. Most jurisdictions clarify that remote or isolated work poses a hazard to mental health and that work health and safety obligations cover mental health. The lack of real interpersonal conversation can have an impact on mental health. Feelings of isolation can be mitigated through the use of technology such as video-conferencing. Employers can also hire employees with traits that may help with remote or isolated work, such as resilience.
A copy of the paper may be down loaded here.