COVID19 has changed the way many of us work however what has not changed is an employer’s obligation to provide a safe place of work for their employees. This obligation is likely to extend beyond the office walls.
Of course, employers can’t control your home environment in the same way they manage their own premises, but they still have a responsibility to ensure your safety.
We have seen employers’ approach this in a variety of ways. For example:
- explaining how to set up a desk properly and advising employees on the type of equipment they should use and the best place for them to work
- providing ergonomic equipment
- creating a checklist or a set of instructions to help employees create safe environments for working away from the office
- staying engaged with employees to keep them informed about the tools, advice, information and resources they need in order to stay safe at work
- acting promptly on any complaints that are made to them by an employee
As an employee, you are also responsible for your own safety at work whether you’re in the office or at home, so you need to take reasonable care. If you have doubts about the safety of your work environment at home, you should raise these concerns with your employer. This discussion may result in the creation of risk controls to make your home office safe.
If you still have concerns, ask your employer to perform a worksite inspection. They will check your work environment to ensure they are happy with its condition and consult with you about how to reduce or remove any risks to your safety. During COVID we have seen these conducted by photo and video means.
The employer cannot turn a blind eye to safety just because the work is undertaken outside the office. If this is overlooked, it may cause serious injuries to employees who are working from home. If you sustain an injury that arises out of or in the course of your employment or while performing any activity that is incidental to your employment, you should be covered for workers’ compensation.
There is case law that shows you will be covered by WorkCover for the same types of incidents that would be covered if you were working on your employer’s premises. For example, if you injured yourself during your lunch break on a day when you were working from the office, you would be covered, and the same conditions can apply in a home-based work environment. However, if you were injured after clocking off from work or while doing something clearly unrelated to work in any way, you probably would not be covered. Still, the scope of these situations can vary widely, so it all depends on your individual circumstances.
If you have sustained an injury while working from home and have questions about making a Workcover claim, don’t hesitate to contact Maurice Blackburn’s ASU Union Relationship Organiser, Jedd Rothman, on 0482 166 362 or email@example.com