Working from home: ensuring the health and safety of your staff*
WHS laws still apply to businesses whose workers are required to work from home. Employers must still ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers. The worker also has a responsibility to take reasonable care for his or her own health and safety, including complying with reasonable instructions given by the employer or any policy and procedures provided.
Prior to moving staff to work-from-home, employers should have a discussion with their staff to make sure their work area at home meets WHS standards, which would involve a safety assessment of the work area prior to the employee working from home.
Some key things to consider during an assessment include the following:
- Workstation set up
- Work hours and breaks
- Physical environment (i.e. noise, heat, cold, lighting, security, electrical safety, home hygiene and home renovations, first aid etc.)
- Any manual tasks the worker has to carry out
- Psychosocial risks (i.e. isolation, fatigue, online harassment).
After doing such an assessment, you should come to an agreement with the employee about any controls and preventative measures that need to be put in place.
It is also important to consider whether workers have the correct equipment to work from home. It may be for instance that at present only some staff have the technological capacity to work remotely. Considering what is needed to expand this capacity will involve consideration of available technology, cyber-security, cost factors and work, health and safety implications.
Expectations around working remotely
Employers should make sure that employees are aware of any on-going obligations around issues and policies such as confidentiality and safe work practices whilst working at home
It is important to remember that while employees are not working at their standard workplace, it is still an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment. Therefore, if an employee sustains an injury in the course of their work while at home, it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure they are covered by workers compensation insurance. Bear in mind that psychological injury is also claimable under workers compensation.
* Extracted from COVID-19 Employer Guide - Managing the workplace in face of the outbreak March 2020, as prepared by Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ACCI).