Coronavirus: how to meet OHS obligations for working from home

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Thursday, 26 March, 2020 - 14:00
Industry news
National News

When working from home, employees are still covered under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, which means employers have an obligation to make sure the health and safety of their employees is maintained when they work at home.

As such, employers should consider a range of factors including communication requirements, managing workflow, use of equipment, and workers’ compensation requirements, according to SafeWork NSW.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is changing daily and it’s important to consider an adaptable workforce plan, the regulator said.

Businesses need to respond to community responsibilities around social distancing and minimising exposure to illness, while maintaining productivity and critical services.

Reasonable steps should be taken to ensure a work-from-home areas meet workplace health and safety requirements, according to SafeWork NSW, which explained that flexible working options could include:

  • Working from home or another location
  • Flexible start and finish times
  • Compressed hours or compressed working week
  • Flexible rostering or bid rostering
  • Job share.

“We recommend taking a team-based approach to align service delivery requirements with the flexibility needed to minimise risks to employee health and wellbeing,” said SafeWork NSW.

An assessment of the work area should be carried out, where possible, before the worker starts working from home.

SafeWork NSW recently released a checklist (download the Word version) to assess WHS risks before employees start working from home.

This checklist is intended for computer-based tasks, and for more detailed information WorkSafe QLD has released an ergonomic guide to computer-based work.

For more information on working from home and the role of OHS professionals, David McIvor, CEO of Work Safety Pty Limited, will be presenting an AIHS webinar on Wednesday 8 April. Click here for more information and to register.