Keeping your workforce safe, even while they are at home

This week the World Health Organisation (WHO) deemed that the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has now reached pandemic status and organisations across the globe are swiftly moving into action to contain any potential further outbreak.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has officially suspended its season indefinitely, One-Day International Cricket Games are being played in front of empty stadiums and the English Premier League has opted to have games played in empty stadiums to combat the spread of the virus. More interestingly, the same report also claims the Premier League will no longer be allowing pubs to show the games in an attempt to avoid large gatherings.

But it is not just global sporting organisations and pubs who are taking significant measures.

Banks and other large-scale white-collar employers are now implementing work from home policies for many of their employees. Meetings that were previously held face to face are now being conducted via tele-conferencing.

In this digital age, working from home is not a new concept for many businesses. However, with this rapid shift comes a risk that employers must be mindful of: As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of your employees, even when they work at home. The same health and safety rules apply to if your employees were in the office.

How many organisations can say that they have robust work from home health and safety policies and procedures? While an overarching corporate work health and safety (WHS) policy will serve as the backbone for any work conducted remotely, it should also be complemented by individual home assessments to ensure each employee’s work environment has been properly assessed for any risks with appropriate safety measures put in place.

Global Insurance and Risk Management Broker, Marsh, claim that the average worker’s compensation insurance claim to premium impact ratio under the conventional NSW scheme is approximately 1:5 per annum for large employers. This means that for every $1 of claim, future insurance premiums will be adversely impacted by roughly $5. So, by providing a similar standard of safety to an employee’s workspace at home, as a company would to its workspace in the office, the risk of injury is mitigated. Which ultimately prevents claims and keeps premiums down.

As such, for the benefit of employees and employers alike, it is critical that businesses conduct appropriate due diligence in order to make informed decisions around work from home practices.

So, what can employers advise their employees do?

Here are some things to consider when employees are working from home. Is there a:

  • A working smoke detector
  • An adequate ergonomic workstation set up for a laptop or desktop
  • A fire extinguisher readily available
  • A basic first aid kit easily accessible
  • A clear, unobstructed exit from the work area clear and unobstructed
  • All electrical cords and appliances are safely secured?
  • Are there any tripping hazards?
  • Are all floor coverings safe and non-slip?
  • Are there appropriate handrails on any stairs?
  • Is the lighting appropriate for the work being undertaken?
  • Is there proper ventilation and adequate heating/cooling?
  • Has the environment been cleared and sterilized from the risk of any contamination?

Ensuring your employees complete a checklist like this (and checking it yourself to make sure everything checks out) is just the first step towards supporting a home office that is a safe place to work from.

A more effective approach is to arrange for qualified safety consultants to undertake home visits or conduct virtual ergonomic and safe workplace assessments. Taking advantage of the digital age we live in, means that employees can log into a virtual world with an occupational health specialist who can conduct an ergonomic assessment or training seminar on how to set up a workstation or when to stretch and take measured breaks. This allows employers to ensure that employee’s at-home workstations are free from the risk of injuries or accidents, preventing any potential workplace injury to occur.

Lastly, while the physical health and safety of an employee working from home is of utmost importance, their emotional health and wellbeing needs to be considered as well. When we don’t see our colleagues for more than a few days, it can be difficult to gauge how they are feeling in relation to their job satisfaction, their workload, and their stress. Furthermore, some employees may find it to be isolating and limit social interaction, which can take a toll on emotional happiness. Significantly, in the 2019 State of Remote Work report, produced by Buffer, 49% of remote workers note that their biggest struggle is wellness-related.

Bodycare Workplace Solutions are the injury prevention specialists. We partner with organisations to implement programs and strategies to ensure that your team can safely work from home, free from the risk of infection, but also free from the risk of injury.

Contact us today if you would like to learn more about how you can safely support your employees both at home and at work.