Keep It Safe – Working From Home

Technology has made it possible to do many jobs at home rather seamlessly. An increasing number of companies are offering “telework” as an option, especially given the increasing need for flexible work arrangements, the rising cost of fuel, and environmental concerns of commuting.

Where working from home is an option, don’t forget to address all workplace health and safety concerns. Here are some things to consider:

Workstation – Just like in the office, a home-based workstation must include an appropriate, quality desk and chair adjusted to suit the worker’s body dimensions. The keyboard must be at the right height so that arms and wrists are in a neutral position. Lighting must also be sufficient, with minimal reflection or glare.

Scheduling – Believe it or not, the most common problem with telework is not that the job doesn’t get done. On the contrary, many teleworkers find they forget to take breaks! Without the natural breaks of meeting with co-workers or walking to a printer, the teleworker tends to spend long periods in the same position, doing repetitive motions that may lead to musculoskeletal injuries.

Work environment -The work environment must be free of hazards such as poorly positioned cords or wires, or ungrounded or overheated electrical equipment.

Emergency measures – Teleworkers, just like workers at the company site, should have smoke alarms, access to a fire extinguisher, a carbon monoxide detector, an evacuation plan, first aid supplies, and other measures in place for their safety.

Responsibilities – Your company’s occupational health and safety policy should outline who is responsible for health and safety issues and worker’s compensation if the teleworker is injured. A company representative must ensure the work environment is safe, and stay in touch with the worker. As for the worker, he or she must report accidents or injuries to their supervisor, just as workers at the company site are required to do. Put these details in writing to avoid any confusion, especially in the event of a compensation claim. In this agreement also state which parts of the home are considered “the workplace,” and indicate that the employer or a health and safety committee representative has the right to access this area of the employee’s home to conduct a health and safety inspection.

You might want to implement a telework arrangement on a trial basis at first, to make sure it works for both the employee and the company. By formally addressing important issues up front, in writing, you can help your staff work safely and productively from home.

Source: CCOHS