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Safety in the Workplace Beyond 2021

Published July 29, 2021 Author: Employsure Face2Face

It is no secret that the year 2020 impacted the lives of people across the globe. Locally in Australia it was, and still is, creating uncertainty for many as we continue to see snap lockdowns and restrictions in response to COVID-19 outbreaks. We saw a huge portion of the working population transition to work-from-home environments and whilst this has meant continuing to turn a profit for many businesses, it brought with it a whole new set of challenges.

When employees are directly supervised in communal workspaces such as an office or factory, it is relatively easy to see when they are not performing their role safely. When employees are working from home, your health and safety obligations as an employer do not cease to exist.  

In 2020, the Supreme Court of New South Wales ruled on the case of Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer v Hill. A de facto couple were working for a family-owned financial advisory in a work-from-home capacity; the male of the couple suffered from paranoid delusions that the female partner was stealing clients. These delusions eventuated to domestic violence toward the female and ultimately, led to her death. As well as this case being on public record and impacting the reputation of the business, it was determined that the death arose due to her employment and the workers’ compensation claim was awarded to the victim’s children.

This is a sad and extreme case, however it highlights that the home is still considered a workplace and your obligation to, as far as reasonably practicable, ensure health and safety of your staff, extends to the home. So how do you ensure your employee’s health and safety is adequately upheld when they are working from home?

Four Key Steps You Should Have

As an employer it is important that you have a risk management strategy in place, which should include four key steps:

  1. Identify the hazard (a situation in the workplace which has the potential to cause injury or adverse effects)
  2. Assess the risks (the likelihood of a hazard creating a risk and causing harm, and the impact or consequence it would have if it did)
  3. Implement controls for the risks (eliminate or minimise the risks)
  4. Review hazards and control measures (implement the controls and assess whether they are working to eliminate or minimise risks)

Identifying hazards and assessing risks in any workplace should be done in consultation with the employee. Some hazards in a home working environment could include computer to eye level height, prolonged periods of time typing or looking at a screen, a cluttered work space, poor back support and trip hazards including loose technology cords or even children’s toys left around.

Frustratingly, not all hazards are tangible. The term “psychosocial hazard” refers to anything in the design or management of work that may elevate the risk of stress. These types of hazards include the pace of work, fatigue and workplace conflicts. When these hazards are not effectively managed, they can lead to a higher risk of sustaining a physical or psychological workplace injury among other employment relations issues.

Control Measures

Some control measures for working from home risks could include:

  • Completing a working from home checklist ensuring employees have the right information and equipment to perform their role safely. It is recommended that this is accompanied by a property receipt form and policy regarding appropriate use.
  • Confirming that employees have a safe home environment to work in free from domestic violence and, if not, arranging other suitable working arrangements.
  • Scheduled, mandatory break times for staff to minimise the risk of fatigue.
  • Providing employees with training and resources on strategies to reduce the risk of stress and fatigue.
  • Providing your management staff with training on how to work with employees to minimise the risks associated with their work.

The concept of the workplace is constantly evolving, and it is important that employees and management are equipped with the right information to continue to perform their roles safely. Employsure Face2Face can deliver training sessions on-site or via videoconference to your management staff or employees who are working from home or transitioning back to your workplace.

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About Employsure

Employsure is one of Australia and New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 30,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

 

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