New guidance and resources have been released by Safe Work Australia to better ensure the safety of employees working from home.
Home-based work is becoming a common feature of Australian workplaces. Following the shift to working from home during the COVID-19 lockdowns – and the staged return to usual workplaces – many businesses are adopting approaches that blend working from home and in the office.
But the same Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws that apply in conventional office settings also extend to remote work set-ups.
Employers’ duties extend to workers who work from home or remotely, and they must take steps to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers.
The ongoing shift to working from home can alter existing WHS risks or even give rise to fresh ones. Newly published resources from Safe Work Australia provide practical advice on fulfilling WHS responsibilities when employees engage in remote work.
Working from home risks
If left ignored, the risks of working from home can impact employers and workers alike.
Risks for workers include physical injuries from home hazards such as slips, trips and falls. Body-stressing injuries can also occur from poor workstation setups.
For this reason, employers need to provide access to a first kit or first aid supplies for their remote and working-from-home staff, just as they are required to do in the workplace.
Mental health risks from isolation and disconnection from the workplace must be considered.
For employers, risks include an increased incidence of injury and workers’ compensation claims, higher absenteeism and lower productivity.
Safer home working environment
Workers can ensure a safe workspace in their home with a designated work area, comfortable and hazard-free access, and adequate lighting and ventilation.
Having a defined workplace, avoiding distractions and following routines will help maintain a more positive work-life balance.
An effective communication structure with regular check-ins, and team and individual catch-ups helps workers stay connected and supported.
Safe Work Australia - Working from home resources
In Australia, WHS laws apply to remote work. While working from home offers advantages, effective management of WHS risks is crucial for both workers and businesses.
WHS laws apply to both workers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs).