COVID-19 Working from home WHS checklist

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating significant disruption in all areas of business and life. To help you to find some order in the chaos and adjust to new ways of doing and being, Doctor Digital has put together a series of COVID-19 blogs with tips, tricks, hacks and suggestions for how digital and e-commerce tools can support you and your business.

Doctor Digital Says

As social distancing and self-isolation becomes the only way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many businesses are asking their staff to work from home. This is a great way to continue business-as-unusual and keep people employed for as long as possible, but what are the legal implications on an employer if there is an accident or injury while at home working?

If you have asked employees, or are asked to work from home, your employer has the same obligations towards your health and safety as they do in your usual office environment. The majority of insurance policies will cover workers who are designated to work from home, but it’s worth checking your policy to be clear on what is and isn’t covered. Organisations that have regular remote staff usually have a policy about what a safe workspace looks like, but in these rapidly moving times, that simply isn’t a reality for many businesses.

Here are some of the key things to think about when you or your staff are setting up a space to work from home:

How can you minimise the hazards?

The ideal situation is to have a dedicated space for work so you aren’t going to trip over the dog or the baby or your golf clubs. Cords and cables for your devices and accessories need to be bundled, off the ground, and safely away from people, kids and pets. Also check that these cords and cables are tagged and tested where possible, or at least not showing visible signs of ragged edges or age.

While houses aren’t always set up with the best practice safety in mind, you know your home well and have the neural pathways set up to move around it with ease. When establishing your new working routine, look across your space with safety eyes and try and keep it as hazard free as possible. While the temptation to multi-task might be high – teleconferencing while hanging out the washing or deep frying chips - be aware that this is more likely to distract you and put you at risk of a slip or trip or fire.

How can you minimise wear and tear on the body?

In your home office or workspace, try and replicate the set up you have at work as closely as possible. Having a desk at the right height, a chair that is ergonomically friendly, a screen at the right height, a mouse and wrist rest, all of the things that make desk-based work less tough on the body. Make sure you stand regularly and move, hydrate, go outside and get some sunshine on your face, take breaks and eat nutritious food. As much as it’s a temptation to binge on Netflix at home, it’s also too easy to sit at your desk or slump on the couch for hours without interruption and work way past normal hours, so set up a routine and rhythms like you would in the workplace to keep you mentally and physically healthy.

Employers and employees when transitioning to a work from home situation need to discuss the set up, and be clear with each other on the expectations of what is and isn’t appropriate. A quick video walk through of the space can allay fears and ensure that employees are safe, and make sure insurance is adequate. Where possible allow employees to take home elements of their desk set up like chairs and monitor stands, and if new furniture needs to be bought, there can be an arrangement to fund it or at least support your staff with payments.

Most importantly, this is a time for agility and creative problem solving, not rigidity. Employers and employees can work together to create the best remote community and customer service environment possible in challenging times that is safe, secure and supportive. The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) is currently offering a range of free advice for Tasmanian businesses in relation to WHS, you can access their services through their website.

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