Working Alone

Responsible Executive: Dean for Research

Responsible Office: Environmental Health and Safety

Contacts: Please direct questions concerning this policy to EHS at [email protected].

Effective Date:  June 17, 2020

I.    Policy Statement

This policy establishes rules for working alone while conducting hazardous operations within campus research laboratories and other research facilities. The purpose of this policy is to prevent workplace injuries and illness for faculty, staff, students, and visitors conducting research at Princeton University and establishes expectations for proper evaluation of risk for individuals who wish to work alone in the laboratory.

II.    Who Is Affected by This Policy

This policy applies to all students, faculty, staff, and visitors who conduct experimental activities within campus research facilities.

III.    Definitions

Biological Agents – Biological material capable of causing disease in humans. Biological agents include bacteria, viruses, fungi, other microorganisms and their associated toxins, that can adversely affect human health.

Hazardous Chemicals - Any chemical which is a "health hazard" or "physical hazard," including but not limited to: chemicals that are carcinogens, toxic agents, irritants, corrosives, combustible, explosive, flammable, oxidizers, pyrophorics, unstable-reactive or water-reactive.

Hazardous Operations - Any work or other operation involving radioactive material, x-ray/radiation producing equipment, hazardous chemicals, biological agents, energized equipment (electrical, high pressure/vacuum, etc.), or Class 3 or 4 lasers. Additional hazards include other sources of non-ionizing radiation (high intensity lights, ultraviolet light sources, welding, furnaces, etc.), or other physical hazards (impact, penetration, compression, heat/cold, etc.).

Minor – For purposes of this policy, a Minor is defined as any individual under the age of 18 years old, who is not a matriculated college student at Princeton University or elsewhere. 

Risk Assessment – A systematic process of evaluating the potential risks that may be involved in a projected activity or undertaking; e.g., RAMP - Recognize, Assess, Minimize, Prepare methodology.

Responsible Party – A individual who is responsible for the oversight of a research facility or laboratory, such as a principal investigator, supervisor or facility manager/director.

Safety Monitor – A designated individual who has agreed to serve as a point of contact or research ‘buddy’ while another individual is conducting hazardous operations in the lab. This individual must be familiar with the research conditions, and willing and capable of assisting in the event of an emergency or summoning emergency services.

SHIELD ‘Safety, Health, Inspection and Equipment Logistics Database’ – A web-hosted compliance management tool provided to campus researchers, facilities and administrative staff to manage personnel, training/documentation, equipment, chemical safety data, and inspection records, providing a convenient way to view, edit and track.

TigerSafe Work Alone Feature – A feature available on the University’s TigerSafe App that can be used to facilitate contact with a Safety Monitor for the purpose of ‘checking in’ with the individual working alone in the lab. The feature can be configured to assign a contact from within the person’s cell phone directory to act as a safety monitor. The App then requires the individual working alone to regularly (e.g., every 30 minutes) acknowledge a check-in alarm generated by TigerSafe. If the person fails to acknowledge the alarm, TigerSafe immediately notifies the Safety Monitor who can then reach out to the researcher, or notify the Department of Public Safety to respond to the research lab.

Working Alone – Any time an individual conducts research activities while not in audible or visual contact with another trained and knowledgeable individual.

IV.    Policy

Individuals conducting hazardous operations or using hazardous chemicals within University research facilities shall not work alone. At least one other responsible individual who is knowledgeable of safety equipment and is willing and capable of coming to the aid of the worker must be in visual or audible range.

The only exception to this prohibition of working alone is for students, staff, or visitors who receive explicit permission from the responsible party to work alone. Prior to giving permission, the responsible party must review the activity to be undertaken to determine whether the risk of working alone can be controlled to a reasonable/acceptable level.

  • If working alone is permitted by the responsible party, along with any other restrictions set by that individual, the worker must have a phone immediately available and should be in regular contact with another person who has agreed to act as the designated safety monitor.
    • A safety monitor is someone who acknowledges this, is familiar with the research conditions, and is willing and capable of summoning help. The Work Alone feature of the Princeton TigerSafe App is available for this purpose.
  • The responsible party must not allow any individual to work alone if the hazards associated with the operation cannot be mitigated to an acceptable level; e.g., cause significant injury or incapacitation, such that the person could not self-rescue or activate emergency services.

Undergraduate students conducting hazardous operations or using hazardous chemicals shall not be permitted to work alone without prior written approval from the responsible party. The responsible party must document and retain a risk assessment corresponding to each individual instance. Risk assessment documents may be uploaded and retained electronically, e.g., within the EHS-SHIELD compliance management system.

Per the Policy for Programs Involving Minors, persons under the age of 18, participating in the Laboratory Learning Program, require supervision at all times and are prohibited from working alone in the lab.

V.    Policy Enforcement

  1. Students found to be in violation of this policy may be subject to discipline in accordance with Rules, Rights, and Responsibilities.
  2. Faculty and Staff found to be in violation of this policy may be subject to discipline in accordance with appropriate University policy.
  3. Campus visitors found to be in violation of this policy may be subject to University sanctions including being banned from campus.

VI.    Roles and Responsibilities

Research Staff/Students



Perform a documented risk assessment prior to performing any hazardous operation.  

Obtain supervisory approval prior to working alone in the lab.

As needed, identify a safety monitor to assist in the event of emergency.

Science and Engineering Departments

Ensure that department/institute staff and students are aware of and follow the work alone policy.

Environmental Health and Safety


Enforce any part of this policy.

Assist departments in evaluating compliance with this policy.

VI.    Related Policies

VIII.    Update Log

Endorsed by Environmental Safety and Risk Management Committee June 17, 2020


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Steve Elwood
Associate Director

Stanley Howell
Program Manager for Chemical Safety