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Working from home
Working from home can be a temporary arrangement or an ongoing agreement between the employer and the worker which allows workers to perform work at their home. No matter what arrangement has been made, under the Occupational Safety and Health legislation, both the employer and the worker have a responsibility to ensure the work is done in a safe manner.
Before commencing a working from home arrangement it is good practice to establish, in consultation with the worker, a work from home agreement. All agreements should be considered on a case by case basis. The agreement can include:
- the tasks that will be performed and details of an appropriate work space;
- the individual’s work requirements and how they will be managed; and
- identifying appropriate equipment, communication systems and software.
Working from home may change, increase or create safety and health risks. To understand these risks, you must consult with workers.
Possible new risks include:
- physical risks from poor work environment, such as workstation set up, heat, cold, lighting, electrical safety, home hygiene and home renovations; and
- psychosocial risks such as isolation, high or low job demands, reduced social support from managers and colleagues, fatigue, online harassment and family and domestic violence.
Employers need to do what is reasonable to manage the risks to a worker who works from home.
Systems of work
In developing an agreement, consider systems of work that can be put in place to minimise safety and health risks. They include (but are not limited) to the following:
- Provide information about how work may performed from home and the risks that may arise while performing this work.
- Provide guidance on creating a safe home office environment, including what a good work station set up looks like and how to keep physically active.
- Require workers to familiarise themselves and comply with good ergonomic practices, for example by referring to a self-assessment checklist.
- Adapt or establish injury reporting, hazard identification and risk management systems.
- Provide adequate remote supervision, including clear direction in relation to work tasks or outputs.
- Establish regular communication.
- Provide continued access to an employee assistance program.
- Appoint a contact person who workers can talk to about any concerns.
- Monitor and review these arrangements on a regular basis.
Systems of work should as far as practicable reduce psychosocial risks such as isolation, reduced social support from managers and colleagues, and fatigue.
Although the worker is responsible for the safety of their home environment, the employer can request as part of the working from home agreement that workers complete a self-assessment of the work space.
Where possible, an employee should have a dedicated space they can use to work, which has sufficient space for emergency entry and exit, and is set up to reduce distractions.
Factors to consider in assessing the workspace include:
- The work station is suitable and set up in accordance with ergonomic principles.
- There is access to appropriate equipment, including computers, telephones and software as required for the tasks.
- The physical environment is suitable, for example it is reasonably quiet, with a comfortable temperature, adequate lighting, electrical safety and the workspace has clear walkways free of trip hazards such as electrical cords.
The Occupational Safety and Health legislation requires the employer to provide adequate supervision. It is important to maintain contact with employees who are working from home. Employers should ensure clear and regular communication is established between the supervisor and employee and among team members to:
- set realistic and clear instructions on workload, roles and task allocation and timelines;
- check in with staff to ensure they are able to access the systems and technology required to do their job;
- monitor work levels to check that work can be successfully completed from home and adjust work tasks as necessary;
- provide advice and assistance as requested; and
- keep employees informed of organisational and work team activities, updates, training and opportunities.
Training and assistance
To assist your worker’s transition to working from home the following training or information should be provided:
- risk management for working at home;
- guidance in setting up a workstation;
- the organisation’s safety policies and procedures; and
- how to report a hazard or incident.
DMIRS - A guide to setting up your workstation
DMIRS - Workstation ergonomics self-assessment
DMIRS - Sample - Work From Home - Occupational Safety and Health Self-assessment
Labour Relations - Teleworking hints and FAQs
Health and Safety Executive UK - Protect home workers
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