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Working Alone

Safety Considerations for Land Surveyors Who Work Alone

Every morning, we get up and go about our day assuming we’ll come home safely tonight.  Thankfully, that is almost always true.  For land surveyors, there are 3 special safety concerns that you should pay close attention to when you work alone.  Working alone adds extra risk in the equation.  Like all risk management scenarios, how do we mitigate the risk so we can get the required tasks done.

Each company typically has a working alone policy as part of their safety culture.  Some crafts require working alone more than others.  If you are unfamiliar with the company policy, please inquire with the safety department for detailed information.  The Encompass Safety Manual references the policy on Pages 89-1 through 89-3.  The successful operation of a working alone policy is a combined effort of both Employer and employee. Both have the responsibility to communicate and respond when needed.  Below are some additional considerations when working alone.


Often you will find yourself parked on the side of a road or motorway.  You may follow safety guidelines that recommend placing warning signs or orange cones in your work area and wearing a high visibility vest. This helps, but drivers are often thinking about other things.  Sometimes despite these precautions, they don’t see you. You must always remain aware and stay alert when you’re working near traffic.

Unstable Terrain

What looks like a perfectly safe plot of land, may have hidden dangers underneath.  There are an increasing number of sink holes randomly appearing in both urban and rural settings.  Land on the edge of water or river banks is also prone to unexpected shifts. Before starting work in an area, survey the situation and go through an appropriate hazard assessment process.  Slips, Trips and Falls are the #1 injury category for the company.  If working alone and you have such an incident, by following the protocols, help will be on the way shortly. 

Remote Areas

Remote working areas present a host of additional risks. Such areas add a slower response time if services are needed due to terrain, lack of improved roads, loss of cellular service and fewer people in such areas able to assist. Planning ahead for such remote work is critical. Use of a satellite phone or response beacon have been successful.  Make sure your plan covers this important aspect.  With any injury, response time is a critical factor in being able to provide a successful outcome.

Building Site Hazards

Each building site is unique and my have it’s own set of safety procedures.  Always check in with the foreman or site manager and determine which safety gear is appropriate for the conditions. This would include everything from wearing steel toe boots, hard hats, high visibility vests or protective eye-wear.

Despite our best efforts, sometimes things still go wrong. If you find yourself working alone or in isolation, having a reliable check-in system in place is very important.  This is especially true if you find yourself going into high risk situations like the ones above.

Company policy states that employees shall have completed a hazard assessment and developed a plan for working alone.  A simple "check-in" policy ensures safety and accountability for both employee and supervisor.  It should not be taken lightly. If cell service or other impediments impact communication exchange, make sure that gets worked out prior to your shift.  If something where to happen, the supervisor needs to know where you are and able to help immediately.

There are several applications available to help support working alone check-in process.  As an example the "OK Alone" application.

Ok Alone allows you to check-in as little or as much as you need. It also has a special “high risk” check-in feature, giving workers the option to check-in in as little as 10 minutes.  Or you can quickly tell people you’re safe and send them a message using an sms to check-in. By having a work alone monitoring system in place, you’ll have the comfort of knowing help is available should you ever need it.