A lot of office-based workers are now working from home and it looks like working remotely is here to stay for a lot of us. There's definitely benefits to working from home, such as saving time by not commuting to work and you can even work in your pajamas! But what about health and safety? What if someone is injured while working at home? Well, workers have been injured while working from home by falling down stairs, slips and trips, and experiencing ergonomic injuries while working at their workstations to name a few examples. Home-based injuries can present a lot of issues in WCB compensation, providing a safe workplace and preventing future injuries from recurring. Before COVID-19, many employers relied on policies and procedures to oversee remote working, however, come COVID-19, multitudes of workers quickly began working from home as soon as they were provided with a work laptop.
There's a lot of aspects of health and safety that are managed at the workplace to protect workers. We perform safety inspections, provide proper equipment and facilities, have policies and safe work procedures. However, applying these criteria to an employee's home presents big challenges and raises a lot of questions.
WCB claims for workers that work form home have been accepted. After all, if the worker was performing the employer's work when they are injured, WCB policies say that they are entitled to compensation. There are other criteria for WCB compensation that must be met as well; it can get complicated and employers and workers need to work with their WCB case managers in resolving these matters. Also, just consider the added complexities if a injured worker were to participate in a graduated return to work program to reintegrate them back to work...but their home is their workplace.
A lot of issues arise when considering workers' health and safety while working remotely, for example:
Is their home a safe workplace, what about trip hazards, stairs, lighting etc.? How can we assist workers in ensuring their homes are safe workplaces?
Are workers working alone? Do they need to follow working alone protocols?
Do workers have a proper workstation to minimize ergonomic hazards?
Is the employer responsible for providing workstation equipment, such as an office chair?
How is an accident investigation conducted if someone were injured while working at home? Does a manager,or OH&S Specialist go into their home to do an investigation?
These issues, and there are other that are just as challenging, should be addressed in a working remotely policy and procedures. Developing these procedures will assist in ensuring the health and safety of workers that work remotely, as well as outlining processes in the event of an injury.
Wilco Health and Safety is a Calgary safety company serving Western Canada. We provide effective health and safety solutions.