How to prevent injuries while 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, 31 March, 2022 - 12:15
Industry news
National News

A recent WorkCover Queensland analysis found the most common work from home injuries were fractures, occupational overuse injuries, soft tissue injuries and back injuries.

To the end of December 2021, just over 100 claims from workers were accepted by WorkCover Queensland, where the circumstance of the injury was working from home.

Working from home injuries were a very small proportion of all claims accepted, with more than 65,000 claims accepted across the scheme in 2020-2021.

More Queenslanders are working from home now than before the pandemic, and WorkCover Queensland said many workplaces are keen to retain the benefits of remote working into the future.

According to Australian Productivity Commission research published in September 2021, around 40 per cent of Australians are now working from home, compared to 8 per cent before the pandemic.

“We apply the same statutory tests to claims for work from home injuries as we do for any other injury. This means the person’s employment must be a significant contributing factor to the injury to be eligible for compensation,” said WorkCover Queensland.

However, not all injuries that occur during a day or shift working from home will necessarily be covered.

WorkCover Queensland cited Hargreaves and Telstra Corporation Limited [2011] AATA 417 (17 June 2011), in which the Administrative Appeals Tribunal applied federal workers’ compensation legislation to determine whether two injuries to the worker in her home arose out of or in the course of her employment.

The worker fell in August 2006 and again in October 2006 on steps within her home, on days when she was working from home. The Tribunal looked at the circumstances of both incidents and concluded that both injuries arose out of or in the course of her employment. The Tribunal noted the worker had already logged on and worked for a few hours, she fell whilst retrieving cough medicine from another part of the house, which the Tribunal deemed to be a work necessity.

With regards to the second incident, the worker had logged into work and commenced working, she fell whilst checking that her front door was locked, her employer had previously instructed her to check the door due to a recent burglary in the area, therefore, the Tribunal said, the fall was an incident of her employment.

WorkCover Queensland said the key point to take away is that each claim will be looked at on its own merits.