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The National Research Council defines “alone” as being beyond visual or audible range of another individual for more than a few minutes at a time.
The stakes are high. If a person is working alone when an accident occurs, his or her ability to respond could be severely impaired, possibly resulting in injury, death, and catastrophic facility damage.
PIs or lab managers should define rules for working alone in their lab. Here are some policy statements on working alone to consider:
Undergraduate students are not permitted to work alone in teaching or research laboratories.
Graduate students and postdoctoral students may work alone in the laboratory only after completing all required safety training and when performing experiments approved by the PI or lab manager. A telephone must be immediately available to the individual working alone.
Working alone with pyrophorics, air, and water reactives; high hazard materials; high voltage or high power lasers; and machine tools is not allowed.