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Working Alone or in Isolation

Working alone or in isolation is a possibility when Ryerson students, faculty and staff participate in various work, activities and tasks at the university. While working alone or in isolation is not always hazardous, it can present risks due to the nature of work and has the potential to affect the health and safety of those involved.

Key resource

An overview of the google docWorking Alone or in Isolation Program, external link is available to Ryerson students, faculty, and staff and provides more detailed information, guidelines and resources to students, faculty and staff concerning their participation in work, activities and tasks that are dangerous when performed alone or in isolation, based on the nature of the work being performed in the space or when the working environment may adversely impact the conditions within the space, which could limit assistance in an emergency situation resulting in an injury or illness. 

This can include, but is not limited to:

  • working with dangerous equipment
  • working with hazardous materials or substances
  • working in specific high or medium risk environments

There are broadly three categories of work, activities and tasks, each with specific steps that supervisors and workers are required to follow if they are working alone or in isolation.

When working alone is low risk

Working alone or in isolation is considered low risk when it involves activities and/or tasks that: 

  • occur in a work area where the physical location is a concern; or 
  • are being performed outside of regular business operating hours.
  • Supervisors (e.g. chairs, academic directors, managers, faculty, principal investigator, supervising staff, etc.) are required to provide workers with best practices for working alone or in isolation when work, activities and tasks are considered low risk. 
  • Workers are required to familiarize themselves with these best practices and seek support when necessary. 
Safety tips to follow 
  • Locate available life-safety systems in your work area (e.g. fire alarm pull stations, emergency exits and stairwells, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, etc.). 
  • Know your location at all times: In an emergency, no matter which phone you use to call for help, knowing your exact location is critical. In all likelihood, it will be one of the first questions emergency dispatchers will ask. Next time you’re in a new space, be it for a class, meeting or event, take the time to note
    • the building name;
    • room number; and
    • intersection you’re closest to.
  • Learn what to do in case of an non-emergency: There are situations that do not pose an immediate threat to you, others or property, but are valid security matters that require immediate support. 
  • Learn how to conduct safe meetings and work or study alone on campus after-hours.
  • Familiarize with the people and processes in place to support you: 
Services you can utilize 
  • WalkSafe Program: This free service pairs you with a uniformed security crew member to escort you to various locations on campus, including the subway and nearby parking lots, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
  • Personal Safety Planning Sessions: This free service involves a discussion of your personal safety needs with a member of the Community Safety and Security department, providing you with scenario-based guidance, tools and resources so you can make informed decisions. Sessions can be general or in response to a particular incident/situation. 
Procedures and policies to familiarize yourself with 
Proactive measures you may want to implement
  • Learn about the notification systems are in place for altering unauthorized or after-hours access to the work area (e.g. alarm system, door bell/announcer, etc.). You and your manager may want to set access restrictions to the work areas or establish a check-in system with your manager if you are working alone or in isolation in a physical location of concern or after-hours. 
  • With your manager, develop a sign-in/sign-out procedure to provide information on start and end time of activities as well as travel plan with an estimated time of return. This should be communicated to your manager and/or Security.

When working alone is high or medium risk

There are some activities and/or tasks that are necessary and permitted but the supervisor needs to determine if working alone or in isolation is:

  • high risk and strictly prohibited by law; or
  • high or medium risk and requires a safety plan.

Before undertaking any working alone or in isolation activity:

  • Supervisors (e.g. chairs, academic directors, managers, faculty, principal investigator, supervising staff, etc.) are required to complete a Working Alone or in Isolation Risk Assessment to determine if working alone is strictly prohibited by law or if a safety plan is required.
  • Workers are required to partake in this process to complete the Working Alone or in Isolation Risk Assessment.

Working Alone or in Isolation Risk Assessment, external link
Environmental Health and Safety at Ryerson is committed to accessibility for persons with disabilities. If you require this document in an alternative format, please contact Amanda Barber at amanda.barber@ryerson.ca or 416-979-5000, ext. 557086.

Working alone that is high risk and prohibited by law 

If your risk assessment determined that the work, activities and/or tasks is high risk and prohibited by law, you will have to follow specific Ontario regulations as set out by the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

Activity and/or task

Regulation 

Working in confined space entries 


O. Reg. 632/05 Confined Spaces

Working with conductors at or greater than 300 Volts or systems rated greater than 750 Volts 

R.R.O 1990, O. Reg. 851: Industrial Establishments

Working with a portable extendable ladder exceeding six metres in length, not securely fastened, or can be endangered by traffic 

R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 851: Industrial Establishments

Working with fall arrest equipment involving hoists, hoistways and moving multi-point suspended work platforms 

O. Reg. 213/91 Construction Projects


Working in a trench or excavation activities

O. Reg. 213/91 Construction Projects

Working with open flames, work producing heat, work producing excessive dust and/or sparks, work involving braising, cutting, grinding, soldering, torch applied roofing, welding 

O. Reg. 213/91 Construction Projects, CSA Standard W117.2-94 for Safety in Welding, Cutting and Allied Processes

In this case, the information provided on this page does not apply. Please contact Environmental Health and Safety at ehs@ryerson.ca or 416-979-5000, ext. 553770 for support in fulfilling the specific regulatory requirements.

Working alone that is high or medium risk and permissible requires a safety plan

If your risk assessment determined that the work is high or medium risk (as well as necessary or permitted), supervisors and employees must identify the risks and develop a safety plan. 

Safety plans can help ensure that workers are completing the work, activities or tasks alone or in isolation in a safe manner with adequate measures in place to identify and mitigate risks. 

  • Use of a vehicle, crane or similar equipment near a live power line where it is possible for any part of the equipment or its load to make contact with live power lines.
  • Working around unprotected edges (i.e. lack of barriers or guardrails).
  • Working at heights greater than 3 metres.
  • Working with motorized equipment with a limited field of view or high pedestrian traffic.
  • Working near bodies of water where there is risk of drowning or electrical shock.
  • Working with machinery where there is risk of entanglement or struck by
  • Risk of obstructions, converging walls, small access points in areas with limited access or egress.
  • Working with designated substances where there is a risk of exposure.
  • Risk of fire or burns when working with explosive, flammable, or reactive materials.
  • Working with toxic materials and there is risk of oxygen displacement from liquids or gases (i.e. asphyxiants).
  • Risk of impaction from pneumatic, hydraulic, and compressed dry air system OR other contents under pressure.
  • Working at heights with a ladder less than 3 metres.
  • Other tasks which, based on the risk assessment conducted by the supervisor in consultation with the affected individual and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), is deemed to require more than one person. 

Before undertaking any working alone or in isolation activity

  • Supervisors (e.g. chairs, academic directors, managers, faculty, principal investigator, supervising staff, etc.) are required to:
    • complete a safety plan using the Working Alone or In Isolation Safety Plan template to establish:
  • provide training to employees in accordance with the criteria outlined in the plan. Records of such instruction or training must be documented and retained on file within the respective faculty or department.
    • programs and procedures;
    • critical safety systems and equipment in the areas;
    • emergency measures;
    • communication methodologies;
    • check in procedures and buddy systems;
    • restricted access and notification systems;
    • necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); and 
    • required review of Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

Workers are required to partake in this process to complete the Working Alone or In Isolation Safety Plan.

google docWorking Alone or In Isolation Safety Plan template, external link
Environmental Health and Safety at Ryerson is committed to accessibility for persons with disabilities. If you require this document in an alternative format, please get in touch with your department’s EHS contact.

Questions? 

If you are a supervisor or worker/student with questions about working alone or in isolation, please contact EHS for additional support at 416-979-5000, ext. 553770 or ehs@ryerson.ca. 

If you have any safety or security concerns, you can also contact Ryerson Security at 416-979-5040 or security@ryerson.ca