The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people across all industries work. Many companies have been forced to enable workers to work remotely as a result of social distancing guidelines. In fact, remote working will more than likely continue throughout 2021 until the COVID-19 vaccine is made readily available to everyone. Studies have even suggested that after the vaccine is widely distributed and we return to a “new normal” the work-from-home trend may persist. A PWC survey found that 55% of executives believe that their employees will continue remote work at least one day per week post-pandemic.
Working from home however, exposes your staff to new workplace safety risks. Employers are often surprised to find that they may be liable for employee injuries that occur while working remotely. Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state, but as a general rule employers should assume they will be liable for employee injuries regardless of the location so long as the injury occurs while conducting work-related business. How can you reduce the risk of your workers getting injured while working from home? You can start by emphasizing the safety of your employees’ remote workspaces. Here are the most important things to remember when keeping your work-from-home staff safe and your costs down.
Create and maintain a safety checklist for all home offices. This will help to ensure that employees remove any acknowledged hazards from their home offices. Employers should establish standards for the home office, such as employees must have a designated work area to minimize disruptions and outside distractions. Inform employees of ways to prevent slips, trips and falls which are some of the most common causes of work-related physical injury. Detail all equipment used by employees and provide training on safety measures and workstation setup.
Put it in Writing
Before allowing any employee to work remotely, employers should require written authorization. Creating a remote working policy that details all of your expectations, helps to make clear what is expected of a home office similar to that of in-person. Employee job descriptions and expectations should be outlined so that everyone understands the specific responsibilities of their positions. For example, employees could be required to record and maintain a detailed record of their actual time spent working, including meal and personal breaks. Employers who want to take that one step further might set fixed working hours, rest breaks and meal times to better track work-related conduct or enact guidelines for check-ins.
Household Electrical Safety
With your staff communicating and collaborating with each other and their superiors remotely, there is an increased reliance on electrical devices like computers. Here are some tips employers can provide to help minimize the risk of ugly incidences associated with home office electrical equipment:
- Connect computers to a power surge protector to prevent damage from any spike in your home’s electricity.
- Ensure that your employees have enough electricity to power office equipment, from PCs and printers to copiers.
- Prevent electric shorts and shocks by using high-quality plugs, extensions, outlets, and panels. Make sure to replace any damaged or exposed wiring.
- Ensure proper cord organization to prevent tripping injuries. There should be no cords on the floor or under rugs.
- Ground power outlets with three-pronged plugs.
Enhance Workstation Ergonomics for Physical Well-being
Your employees’ physical well-being also depends on the furniture and equipment that they use while working remotely. In order to enhance the overall workstation ergonomics, here are a few things that could be emphasize:
- The work desk should ideally be 29 inches high to prevent one’s legs/thighs from striking against it.
- The chair should be adjustable and sturdy to adequately support one’s back.
- The computer screen must be free from noticeable glare.
- The monitor should be placed at least 20-24 inches away from the eyes and positioned below eye level.
Obligation to Report Injuries
Remind employees, in writing, of their obligations to report all work-related injuries promptly. Outlining workers’ compensation and safety policies, along with who to notify when reporting an injury that occurs in the home office, will help to eliminate confusion about what defines a work vs non-work related injury. Make sure employees understand that even if an injury occurs at a remote worksite, they have an obligation to report it and should feel safe doing so.
Other Safety/Security Measures
In addition to the measures above, make sure to maintain the security of your data/files that are even more susceptible to cyberattacks as you work from home. Keep a record of all your office equipment, maintaining them by serial numbers where possible. Store all your work-related documents and equipment in a safe place where they can be protected from misuse or damage.
When it comes to protecting your business and employees, understanding how workers’ compensation relates to remote work is critical. Encouraging your work-from-home employees to follow these safety tips can help minimize workers’ compensation liabilities brought on due to remote workplaces. Implementing these measures puts you, the employer, at a lower risk for a workers’ compensation claim. To learn more about protecting your business and employees with a customized workers’ compensation insurance policy, contact us today at 781-449-7744 or [email protected].