New research has revealed that many employers are failing in their obligation to ensure a safe work from home environment for their employees.
The study, conducted by ergonomic consulting firm, Ergoworks, showed that some 90% Australian workers who have work from home arrangement are doing so under unsafe conditions.
Over the past five years, the ergonomics consultancy firm has conducted over 1,000 home workplace assessments for businesses across Australia, and found that of the workstations audited, nine in every 10 were unsafe and required rectification.
Marnie Douglas, director of Ergoworks, said employers cannot shirk their obligation to provide a safe working environment for workers, even if the work is not being carried out on their official premises. Douglas added that many employers are unaware of the legal ramifications for not conducting safety audits of employee’s homes.
“Employers are generally oblivious to the working conditions that employees have established in their own premises. It is not uncommon for home workers to work in unsafe environments including working from kitchen bench tops, on bedside tables or with the laptop on their lap,” she said.
Douglas said that as a result of poor workplace practices and unsafe environments, workers are increasingly suffering neck and back injuries. These factors subsequently impact on their productivity and eventually lead to increased absenteeism and a reduction of work output – not to mention increased workers’ compensation claims and potential law suits against employers.
“The central issue is that home workers are not setting up their work stations safely. This deficiency is the responsibility of employers to address and has significant potential to become a litigation nightmare,” Douglas added.
Over 764,700 Australian workers are now working from home at least two days each week, with this figure continuing to rise.
The recent high profile work from home litigation case (where a Telstra employee successfully sued the company after falling down stairs and sustaining significant injuries) has set a legal precedent for unsafe work from home arrangements.
Home offices are required to have the same working requirements as an office environment, and an OHS audit is advisable.
Home workstation risk audits generally includean assessment of all equipment used by the employee, including chair, desk, keyboard, mouse, phone, the configuration of this equipment including its positioning, trip hazards, adequacy of lighting, location of smoke alarms, fire extinguisher access, fire exits and access to first aid kits.
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