During the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of millions of people globally have been forced into their homes and asked to work remotely. For many, this is their first extended experience with working from home. When our homes become our places of work, emergency preparedness is more than a good idea—it is a work responsibility. Even as pandemic restrictions ease, many employees will want to continue working from home, at least some of the time.
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, a home office should offer the same level of safety and security as the employee would receive at the regular work office. When an employee is working at home, they may be working alone. While working alone in itself is not a risk, it can present a unique situation should something unexpected happen.
Hazards in the home work-place may include:
- Electrical safety risks, especially in older homes that may not be wired for equipment required to work remotely
- Tripping and falling hazards
- Environmental hazards, including household biological or chemical hazards, noise or other distractions
- Personal safety risk, including threat from domestic violence
- Vehicle safety, if work involves employees traveling
- Mental health risk, including feelings of anxiety or isolation
In many jurisdictions in Canada, occupational health and safety laws provide little or no formal guidance for remote/telework situations. Employers and employees share the responsibility for ensuring that working from home can be done safely.
Being prepared for an emergency in your home is always good practice, and is even more important when employees are working from home. Employers should encourage employees to make an emergency plan.
To ensure employees remain safe, it is important to keep to a contact schedule even if there are not “work” details to discuss. If you are working from home and your employer has not set something up, initiate that conversation. Technology can help achieve that contact schedule. Using simple, easy, low cost software like Alertable for Workplace can save time and help ensure employee checkins are done consistently and reliably.