Maybe the New “Normal”

March 30, 2020

Posted in Business Insurance, Risk Management by

Safety and Health Considerations When Working from Home
Dr. James Krouse, CSP, OHST, CPEA
Risk Control Consulting Manager
ONI Risk Partners, An EPIC Company

Many employers have already begun to allow employees to work from home to attract and maintain a qualified work staff. Technology has made this process a game changer for both the employer and employee. COVID-19 has accelerated this process into unknown territory at this point. What duties does the employer provide to protect an employee’s safety while they are working from home? There are several legal issues that we suggest you discuss with your company attorney and Worker’s Compensation carrier, if you have not accomplished this already. This includes the legal parameters of Worker’s Compensation and liability related issues within home working environment.

Employers can provide general guidelines for managing a safe, effective remote office. The following checklist should give you a starting standpoint:

General-Getting Started

  • Are your family members aware of the importance of your work place?
  • Floors in your home are clear and free of hazards?
  • Phone lines, charger cords and electrical cords are secured under a desk to avoid tripping hazards?
  • Temperature controls provide comfortable working conditions?
  • Are first-aid kits available?
  • Try to establish your “safe place” for work, away from distraction and other family activities.
  • Keep your work space clean an uncluttered. You will work and feel better.
  • Understand the risk factors are different in your home than your regular work environment?
  • Do you try to establish set work hours and routines to complete projects?

Fire Safety

  • Walkways, aisles and doorways are unobstructed for emergency exiting?
  • Working smoke detectors present in the home?
  • Do you have a workable fire extinguisher readily available?
  • Is there more than one exit near your home work area provided for emergencies?
  • Is good housekeeping a priority to avoid trips and falls?
  • Do you avoid using portable heaters, because of the potential fire hazards?

 Electrical Safety

  • Computer equipment is connected to a surge protector?
  • Electrical system is adequate for office equipment?
  • All electrical plugs, cords, outlets and panels in good condition? No exposed/damaged wiring?
  • Extension cords and power strips not daisy chained and in good condition?
  • Electrical cords run in non-traffic areas, do not run under rugs, and are not nailed or stapled in place?
  • Equipment turned off when not in use?
  • Electrical outlets are grounded with three-pronged plugs?

 Workstation Ergonomics

  • Office furniture and equipment ergonomically correct?
  • Desk is 29 inches high?
  • Chair is sturdy and adjustable with backrest and casters appropriate for floor surface?
  • When keying, are your forearms close to parallel with the floor and wrists kept in a neutral position?
  • Monitor is 20-24 inches from eyes and top of screen is slightly below eye level?
  • Is there adequate lighting in your work area?
  • Do you have a business chair and seating plan that allows for adequate support of your thighs?
  • Do your feet reach the floor when seated and is a footrest available when needed?
  • Is your back adequately supported by a backrest?
  • Is your computer screen free from glare and properly adjustable?
  • Do you have adequate lighting at the workstation?
  • Are you taking regular stretching breaks every 60 minutes?

 Other Safety Issues & Considerations

  • Materials and equipment are in a secure place that can be protected from damage or misuse?
  • Do you restrict use of equipment when in the home?
  • Do you have an inventory of all equipment in the office including serial numbers when possible? ♦

Dr. James Krouse, CSP, OHST, CPEA
Risk Control Consulting Manager
260.625.7214 or 260.241.3332