College of Engineering / Engineering Office of Safety / Working Alone or After-Hours



To provide reasonably practicable procedures that Auburn University Samuel Ginn College of Engineering research groups or units will use to ensure the safety of individuals who perform work alone or after hours, the College of Engineering Safety Office, along with the Engineering Safety Council, has taken a proactive approach to develop "Working Alone Guidelines" to help minimize the risk associated with working alone or after-hours. 

Currently, various departments, labs, shops, and centers have practices that require buddy systems or explicitly do not allow individuals to work in research labs without supervision, while others have no policy or practices. The Working Alone Guideline will help to unify all such practices and provide clarity and consistency around the issue of working alone without hindering research or experiential learning. It will also provide a routine assessment process for supervisors and faculty to determine if a particular activity or operation should be allowed to be performed alone or late at night.


This guideline applies to all individuals (faculty, staff, and students) whose task or activities:

  1. has the potential to cause harm, injury, or damage to themselves, person(s) and/or property. The task or activities may involve, but are not limited to:
    1. use of highly hazardous materials (chemical, biological (, radiological, etc.)
    2. use of heavy machinery, hazardous equipment, processes, and hazardous energies (electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, thermal, etc.)
    3. work in isolated environments.
  2. has the potential to put them in situations where there is an anticipated risk of physical assault or harassment from others (either invited or uninvited) to their workspace.


Working alone and/or after-hours should be AVOIDED when handling hazardous materials, using heavy machinery, equipment, hazardous energies or performing hazardous procedures in isolated environments.

A BUDDY SYSTEM should always be used when working in a laboratory or shop with hazardous materials, equipment, or processes.

However, if working alone/after-hours work cannot be avoided, the guideline requires all Samuel Ginn College of Engineering Principal Investigators (PI) or supervisors and anyone working with or intending to work with potentially hazardous materials, equipment, or processes that could result in serious injury or immediate harm to make a careful assessment of the activities by:

  1. Identifying materials, processes, or equipment that should or should not be handled while working alone or after-hours.
  1. Making a plan for working alone or after hours using this guidance document as a template to document their approval for someone to work alone in their laboratory or shop. Faculty and Staff should submit the plan to the college of engineering safety manager for review.

The intent of the assessment is to determine whether the risk of working alone is controllable under specific conditions established by the PI or supervisor.

If the risk cannot be minimized to a controllable level, as determined by the PI or supervisor, then the individual should perform the work only when others are present, or the PI or supervisor should ensure that a suitable alarm/communication device is available that will summon help immediately.

The College of Engineering Safety Manager will request for this plan if individuals are seen working with hazardous materials, equipment or processes alone in a lab or shop.

To promote safe engineering and control potential hazards, please review the working alone guidelines and use the information provided in the guidelines to create a working alone plan: