With the current global climate, businesses are turning to remote working situations to keep their workplace open. Working from home is a great alternative since it allows for social distancing, while still allowing the work that can be done online or remotely, to be done. However, just because workers are not coming into the office, doesn’t mean that work health and safety requirements go out the window.
It doesn’t matter if your worker is in the office, on a worksite or working from home, the Work Health and Safety Act applies. If a staff member is injured while working from home, the business can be held to be liable for any damages that the worker may face. This means that owners of a business must still ensure that their staff have a safe environment to work in. Below are 6 tips to assist with transitioning to remote work.
Record when your staff are conducting work from home activities.
The business can only be held liable for injuries that occur while the staff member was performing work tasks. It is useful to have some sort of system in place to record when the worker is starting and ending work and to record the hours for those workers you pay on a time-worked basis.
Have “Work From Home” Policies and Procedures in place.
Business owners can only ensure the safety of their workers as far as reasonably practicable. There’s no law saying that you need to check off every single day that each of your worker’s homes are fit for work. However, having guidelines available to assist your workers to set up and maintain a safe home workspace as well as identify their own workspace hazards and how to remedy them. In most cases, depending on the work, this will be enough to show that the duty of care has been fulfilled.
Having a ‘work from home setup checklist’ is an easy way for your workers to inspect and set up their home workspace to maximise not only safety but productivity as well.
Be aware of the new risks
Allowing your staff to work from home creates a large number of new risks or can change the level of risks, compared to that of working in the office or on site. New risks may include physical risks such as workstation set up, temperature, electrical safety and home hygiene. Work from home risks may also include psychosocial risks such as isolation, job demand stress, reduced social support, fatigue, online harassment and domestic situations.
Keep all potential risks in mind when you are setting up the work from home arrangements with your workers. Completing a risk matrix may help you manage the level and likelihood of these occurring, which can help you triage the way you support your workers to identify and manage the risks in their own homes.
Have a system to allow workers to voice the hazards they identify when working from home.
While in an office or on site, hazards may be easy to log, but when working remotely your staff may be unable to access the usual system. Having a system that can be accessed from their home is crucial to ensure that these hazards and issues can be reported.
Ensure workers are equipped
If your worker’s home equipment is not suitable for the work that needs to take place, it can be considered a hazard which the business needs to fix. This includes items such as improper seating, faulty computer equipment, overloaded power boards, or other unsafe practices in a home environment. It is vital that when these hazards are reported they are not ignored by those responsible for the safety of the staff. Remember the hierarchy of hazard control, elimination, substitution, engineering, administration, PPE.
Dealing with these hazards may mean unexpected costs to the business, but they can be far cheaper than if an incident occurs. It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that their staff can work safely.
Keep communication with your workers
Checking-in with your staff while they work from home can have a few positive purposes. It is a good way to make sure that tasks are getting done but it also allows you to check in on their physical and mental wellbeing during these times. Having open communication allows for safety issues to be brought forward quicker and easier, and it may be able to be resolved on the spot. It also encourages a supportive environment while remote work happens and can help maintain unity in the workplace
If you want to learn more about the requirements for business owners while staff work from home a great resource is on the Safe Work Australia website here: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-employers