Safety Considerations for Remote Workers
August 29, 2019 | Juli Jenkins, SCLA
Thanks to technology, working remotely has become a more accessible and more plausible option for employees everywhere. With more companies offering work from home policies, it’s crucial for employers to be aware of the unanticipated risks and be ready to address them.
Keeping employees who work remotely safe is a difficult challenge since they are not in a controlled work environment. OSHA will not do home safety inspections; however, the agency maintains employers are responsible for safe working conditions regardless of location. Because employers are responsible for worker safety, injuries that occur while working off-site will likely fall under workers’ compensation.
Despite the challenges, getting everyone involved, and providing the necessary tools, training and support will go a long way toward improving the chances of implementing a successful safety program for employees working remotely.
Remote employees face a variety of safety risks. To prevent accidents and injuries, these employees should understand their employer’s safety goals and requirements. Employers should have a policy for remote workers and review it regularly.
- A remote worker policy should cover eligibility, safety, equipment and security.
- All remote workers should sign an agreement acknowledging receipt of the policy and their understanding of their responsibilities.
- Provide safety training and resources, such as a safety checklist.
- A lot of the risks of working remotely come from employees working in an unsafe space. Create workspace specifications, and help employees set up a safe workspace that adheres to the specifications.
- With the increasing cyber risk, consider equipment and security needs. Will the company provide equipment or will employees be using their own equipment? Are technology safety protocols in place?
- Make it clear that computer security issues are monitored.
- Stay in frequent contact with employees and follow up regularly to ensure safety compliance.
- Conduct an insurance review to make sure that all contingencies are covered—including business travel incidents.
Get Employees Involved
The most effective way to improve remote worker safety is to involve employees. Employees who currently work remotely have valuable knowledge and experience that can help shape the company’s work from home policy. These employees can help determine what is needed to prevent injuries, regardless of where the work is performed.
Providing ways for employees to become involved in hazard identification and assessment, training and program evaluation is a smart investment of time and money. And it can pay off in cost reduction and injury prevention.
Working hours should be spent in a comfortable, safe and efficient environment. When creating workspace specifications, it’s important to identify and eliminate risks. An optimal setup includes:
- A quiet, distraction-free space.
- Proper lighting to reduce eye strain and see work surfaces.
- Proper ergonomics are essential for maintaining alignment and preventing muscle fatigue. Chairs should be comfortable and supportive, computer monitors should be at eye level, and work surfaces should be organized for easy access to supplies.
- An internet and phone connection that is adequate for the work.
- Awareness of electrical and fire hazards.
- Regular break and attendance schedules should be adhered to.
Incorporating good risk management strategies into company workspace specifications can minimize risk. It can also help employees understand safety risks so they can practice the right prevention strategies.
Remote work policies offer many benefits to both the employee and the employer; however, it may also increase the potential workers’ compensation risk. Without proper safety training and ongoing communication, the initiative may result in accidents, incidents and injuries. Make sure you are navigating through it correctly and safely, creating clear guidelines to keep your employees safe and the company protected.