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​Health and safety for employees who work from home

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread and forces many of us to work remotely, the need to maintain a safe workplace has extended to our home environments. Organisations and individual workers have legal obligations to manage the risk together.

This article focuses on health and safety risks and solutions to help overcome some of the challenges of the physical separation imposed by COVID-19.

Safety Risks when Working from Home  

Key risks of working from home (WFH) to consider while managing increased social distancing measures include:

Physical Risks:

  • Manual handling and ergonomics:

    • Workers will need to manually set up their work areas, often with existing equipment at home

    • Sitting for prolonged periods with poor posture and poor core strength, leading to back, neck, and wrist injuries

  • Slips, trips and falls often present the most common form of injury arising from WFH due to electrical cords, spillages, stairs, and uneven surfaces

  • Fire and emergency risks are relevant for all homes, including apartments

  • Electrical risks can involve laptop computers and other devices requiring an electrical supply

  • Lighting, heating, and cooling inadequacy can lead to eye strain and temperatures may affect comfort when sitting for prolonged periods

Thinking positively 

Some of the invisible challenges of working remotely result in:

  • Social isolation:

    • For some workers, especially those who live alone, the switch from a busy workplace to WFH can be sudden and difficult to adapt to

  • Online harassment and bullying:

    • Communications will step up online as more lockdowns are implemented, with online opinions of the COVID19 virus being shared and creating anxiety

    • More time online can mean increased exposure to messages that are negative and information about COVID19 that is inaccurate

    • Some colleagues may have difficulty adapting to the pressures of performing in a new environment and without support may perform poorly online

  • Increased potential for domestic conflict:

    • Workers with families will spend more time together indoors, increasing the risk of interpersonal tension. This could even lead to forms of aggression and in extreme cases domestic violence

    • Aggravated mental health issues may arise for those with existing mental health conditions

Steps to minimise health and safety risks

  • Provide workers with a WFH Self-Assessment checklist

    • For physical risks, ensure workers are required to complete an assessment, including requirement for a photo of the workspace

    • This can be reviewed and approved remotely by a supervisor

    • This should track all of the key risk controls required such as: ergonomic workspace and equipment, stretch / rest breaks, first aid kit, approved fire extinguisher (or blanket), test and tag of electrical equipment, smoke alarm, and familiarity with emergency egress (apartment buildings)

  • Encourage workers to take regular rest breaks and get physical exercise

  • Hold regular online team meetings and virtual coffee breaks

  • Share your organisations' Employee Assistance Program services and remind workers how these may be accessed

  • Ensure incident reporting processes are available and communicated to workers

  • Continue to consult with workers regarding health and safety risks, through online meetings with committees for example


Download CCI's Ergonomics Self-Assessment Checklist

Practical Help

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Disclaimer

© Catholic Church Insurance Limited (CCI) ABN 76 000 005 210, AFS Licence No. 235415, GPO Box 180 Melbourne 3001. All rights reserved. The information on this website is intended to provide a summary and general information only to clients of CCI. It does not constitute, and should not be relied on as advice or considered as a comprehensive coverage of the topics discussed. You should seek independent and professional advice that is tailored to your own circumstances. CCI will not take responsibility for any loss, damage or injury to any persons incurred by the use of content contained on this website.