Naomi Kemp, Chair of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety, speaking today about the recently launched new Workers Working from Home chapter in the OHS Body of Knowledge, described how it calls for new thinking about the health and safety of workers who work from home.
“Working from home might be the new normal but it can’t be done in the same way, just in a different location. Safe, healthy and productive working from home requires that we think differently about work design, taking a holistic approach – manager, worker, OHS, HR supported by organisational policies – and one of the most important new elements in this process is the trust between workers and managers. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home was often limited by a lack of trust by managers, their need to see people in the workplace to be convinced that they were working. The forced move to working from home has demonstrated to managers that working from home can be highly productive – and for some, more so than the office environment. The other key elements of good design for healthy, safe work at home alongside trust are: ownership, belonging, and enabling, sitting within a broad risk management approach” she said.
“The health and safety issues people face at home are obviously different to those in the face-to-face work environment, and simply creating more online meetings, webinars and checklists is not the answer. We have to think differently – starting from scratch to ensure we understand the hazards and risks properly.”
“While there is a plethora of information focusing on individual workers and what they should do, this guidance is developed for those who should be involved in designing the work – managers, supervisors OHS professionals, human resources and the workers themselves,” she said.
Ms Kemp added that the chapter contains important reflections for the successful management of the health and safety of remote workers. “The chapter underlines that managing remote workers is not a set-and-forget situation, and strict oversight of workers is not the answer. A holistic approach such as that described in this chapter results in both improved worker health and safety and potentially, increased productivity.”
The OHS Body of Knowledge chapter on Workers Working from Home is freely available here.
About the OHS Body of Knowledge: The OHS Body of Knowledge for Generalist OHS Professionals was developed in response to an identified need to define the collective knowledge that should be shared by Australian generalist OHS professionals as a basis for understanding the causation and control of work-related fatality, injury, disease and ill-health.
The Body of Knowledge is managed and curated by the AIHS, and the development of any new piece of work involved drawing on peer-reviewed literature together with input and engagement from OHS professionals working at the forefront of these issues on a daily basis, and other experts related to the subject matter.
About the AIHS: with a more than 70-year history, the Australian Institute of Health & Safety is Australia’s national association for the health and safety profession, with a vision for safe and healthy people in productive workplaces and communities.