WHS Risk Assessment – working from home vs office – what’s the difference?

WHS Risk Assessment – working from home vs office – what’s the difference?

The photo above is me working from home while it’s being refurbished for sale.

As anyone who’s been through a home renovation (and had to continue working from home), it’s hell on earth!

Yet, as I went through the process and the ordeal of working with and around my amazing painters, the thought occurred to me, health and safety needs are the same in both official workplaces and homes.

Working From Home (WFH), where practical, has now become an accepted and legitimate practice by employers and equally productive.

Certainly, working from home has many benefits;

  • No commute – so you can be productive very quickly
  • Other than the mandatory online meetings, you may not be interrupted as often as you would in an office environment
  • And of course, the ‘illusive’ work-life balance (although, this could be arguable)

And let’s not forget the age-old benefits of working in the office;

  • Interactions with people (other than your family/pets)
  • Spontaneous/creative idea generation opportunities
  • And of course, networking

However, there is one element that is common to both working from home and working in an office environment – workplace health and safety (WHS).

On the surface, working from home may seem very casual, however, as this becomes an accepted practice and the norm going into the future, the legislative requirements for working from home will mirror that of working in an office.

Both employers and employees are now required to work together to identify and minimise risks in their workplace (home and workplace).

For employers this means;

A primary duty of care to do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of their employees, including when allowing workers to work from their home.

For employees this means;

Having an obligation to take care of their own health and safety and follow company health and safety policies, procedures and instructions.

This may include:

  • Following procedures about how work is performed
  • Following instruction on how to use equipment provided by the workplace
  • Maintaining a safe work environment (for example moving furniture to allow adequate workspace and providing adequate lighting, repairing broken steps etc)
  • Keeping equipment safe, well maintained and in good order
  • Looking after their own in-home safety (for example maintaining electrical equipment and installing and maintaining smoke alarms)
  • Reporting changes that may affect their health and safety when working from home

While it might be easy to dismiss workplace health & safety requirements in a ‘work from home’ environment, employers and employees need to understand the same rules will apply to both scenarios when the employer authorises/allows their employees to work from home.

If you choose to work from home, with the blessing of your employer, here are a few areas you need to pay attention to.

Designated work area

  • A designated work area has been identified which provides sufficient clear space to enable the employee to have full range of movement required to work without risk of strain or injury.

Environmental conditions

  • Lighting is adequate for the tasks being performed (easy to see and comfortable on the eyes)
  • Ventilation and room temperature can be controlled, regardless of season
  • There is no excessive noise affecting the work area

Emergency exit

  • Path to an exit is sufficiently wide and free of obstructions or trip hazards to allow unimpeded passage

And of course, there are ergonomic factors for your home workplace (unlike my scenario in the image above), which include;

  • Surface area of work
  • Chair height and positioning
  • Computer keyboard/monitor positioning

During our work from home orders, many employees and employers took on a rather casual approach – however, as we evolve to working from home as an extension to working in an office, both employee and employer will be required to take on a more rigorous assessment of their circumstances and comply with the necessary WHS requirements in their state.

Contact Safety Services Australia to see how your employee’s work from home set up complies with relevant Work Safe and WHS requirements.