Working From Home Health & Safety
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Currently a large majority of us are working from home. Whilst it is for our own protection we do need to still be mindful of workplace health and safety and in essence think of our home workspace as we would our normal workspace.
Employers have a responsibility to ensure workers will still be safe due to the WHS laws still applying even if staff are working from home. Obviously when an employee is working from home it is harder for an employer to control and minimise risks to the worker.
When we hear Workplace Health & Safety we often think of the physical aspects such as breaks, strains and pains. Some of the risks that employers may miss are the mental health ones which include feelings of isolation, fatigue and stress.
According to Worksafe Victoria, “Employers have a duty to - as far as is reasonably practicable - to provide a working environment for their employees that is safe and without risks to health.”
This includes controlling new risks that may be introduced when an employee works from a location other than their normal workplace, such as their home office. Employers should ensure that they have a structured Working From Home Policy and Working From Home Checklist for employees to verify to the company that they are working in a safe environment. If you can show you have trained your employees on how to conduct their work safely, then that is protection for you if a WHS situation were to arise while working from home. If you require one of these policies for your organisation, get in contact with KLC Recruitment today.
Some ways to avoid any Workplace Health & Safety issues, I recommend doing some or all of the following;
Employees should be encouraged to take exercise breaks to reset their minds and minimise the risk of repetitive strain injuries. This doesn’t need to be a meal break or the like, however it can be used to stretch or change positions. Homes are very different to offices and we need to ensure we can do our jobs to the best of our ability and in a safe manner. By outlining a set time everyday where everyone should stand up and walk around the block is a great way to keep both the mental and physical strains at bay.
Office Set Up
Our home office was probably never set up properly to accommodate for a prolonged period working out of it like we have the past few months. I have found one of the biggest issues that some of the staff at KLC including myself had was with exactly this. Things like lighting in the area you are working may need to be adjusted, you may need a lamp to ensure you have adequate lighting to keep your eyes from straining and the yawns away. Is the table you are working on at a suitable height and is your chair comfortable and supportive. Both of these important pieces of furniture could make or break a Workplace Health & Safety claim - or worse, your back or neck!
Managers should be encouraging open communication and ensuring some type of check in call is made at least daily. In a workplace in a normal situation you see people all day, you chat, you ask how they are. Working remotely shouldn’t mean this disappears it just means more effort needs to be made to check in on people. A morning meeting is a great way to check in with everyone before the day starts. It is important to make sure people feel contacted as isolation can cause mental health issues. Staff need to be encouraged to bring up issues they are having, which could be anything from workload, technology or even mental health issues.
Being safe at home is also the responsibility of the employee. Employees also need to ensure they are using equipment provided by their employer where possible and use it correctly. For example a dining room chair might be ok for a day at home here and there, but given this is the second month most people who are at home an ergonomic chair is recommended. The employee should also be mindful of minimising other risks like slips, trips and falls.
All employers and employees should be having ongoing discussions about working from home and any issues that come up along the way. In saying this employees must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and cooperate with their employers actions to ensure a safe workplace just as they would at their usual place of work.
According to Safe Work Australia "whether working at the office or at home, a worker has the right to stop or refuse unsafe work when there is a reasonable concern of exposure to a serious risk to health and safety from an immediate or imminent hazard." So as an employer or an employee keep in mind your obligations and keep the communication open to avoid any Workpalce Health & Safety issues arising. Keep in mind this won't be forever however in the here and now we need to ensure we are taking all steps and doing all things correctly for the safety of ourselves and others.
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