Most organizations make some attempt to promote healthy computing at work. But are any companies doing anything to help prevent injuries to their employees from computer use at home?
Although not always the case, homeworking frequently involves the use of a laptop computer and this is easily transformed into a reasonable work tool by placing the device on a stand and with the addition of a separate keyboard and mouse – but this doesn’t address the domestic table/chair or space relationship which is often far worse than would be available in the office.
In the UK the same ‘office focused’ Regulations apply to those working from home, and hence the duties for an employer are essentially the same regardless of the work location; however, the difficulty arises out of the definition for ‘working from home’ – is the person employed to work from home (in which case the duty is clear) or do they do so only occasionally as a personal convenience (in which case it is reasonable to expect the individual must shoulder the majority of the responsibility)? Of course there is a wide range of work situations in between these extremes which have also to be considered, and in the UK the safest course of action is therefore to assess the workplace to evaluate the level of risk that might be presented by that particular set of circumstances, and then to respond accordingly.
To my knowledge, some companies are providing full (but compact) workstations, chairs and DSE for home workers where there is a specific need/benefit for the person to operate from home, but there are also other employers expecting to hide behind an excuse that the employee has a desk at the office and should therefore use that (happily ignoring the extra time needed and work pressure created if they were to travel to do this).
This is a growing ‘problem’ (fuelled by environmental considerations and the benefits of hot-desking) and it is one that more and more companies are now facing and tackling; it is important for the employer to establish home worker policies so that the responsibilities for each of the parties is clear – the current ‘home worker’ ambiguities will only lead to worker dissatisfaction and increasing reports of MSDs in particular.
If anyone has a home work policy and would like to share it, I would be interested. Thanks..
There certainly have been some in Sydney; for that reason we had to develop a checklist back in the nineties (please see attachment). BTW there have been earlier threads on this issue such as;
I have a couple of documents that might interest you. We have a publication on this topic called “Working from home – A guide to occupational health and safety, rehabilitation and workers compensation requirements”;
Another report that might interest you is the February 2006 report of the Australian Telework Advisory Committee (ATAC) for the federal government; ‘Telework for Australian Employees and Businesses – Maximising the economic and social benefits of flexible working practices’.
Regards, David McFarlane MAppSc (Ergonomics) Ergonomist, WorkCover NSW Disclaimer Any recommendation concerning the use or representation of a particular brand of product in this document or any mention of them whatsoever (whether this appears in the text, illustrations, photographs or in any other form) is not to be taken to imply that WorkCover NSW approves or endorses the product or the brand.
Worked from home (UK) for 5 years, but very little actual care or guidance from company (I can self-manage luckily!). The standard systems used in UK tend to stick with the office template. Very little PRACTICAL guidance on adapting home equipment or using laptops all day long. It did raise issues about the level of equipment such an arrangement should include – not every one has a spare room, so they don’t want a standard blue office chair in their living area – that sort of debate.
My current local authority employer is also now wrestling with this, although there are very few actual “work from home” contractually staff.
I attach our H&S “homeworking” guidance, which is one part of a 3 part guide; the policy part 1 should define the category of worker (from a bit at own discretion, to fully contracted to only WFH), and the other part covers such matters as insurance, planning, and other admin.
I read recently that (according to our local National Safety magazine) about one fifth of all unscheduled absences are due to “family issues” (National Safety, October 2007, see page 20). In view of the trend toward working parents taking their children to the office I can’t help thinking that the challenge for modern employers wishing to minimise absenteeism (and maximise worker job satisfaction) might be to find ways make the office more like home (“family friendly”) rather than vice versa!
However, this might be rather difficult for non-office workplaces.
David McFarlane MAppSc (Ergonomics)
Ergonomist, WorkCover NSW
National Safety Council of Australia, “Workplace Flexibility. Good jobs good health”, National Safety, October 2007, pages 17-20.
Any recommendation concerning the use or representation of a particular brand of product in this document or any mention of them whatsoever (whether this appears in the text, illustrations, photographs or in any other form) is not to be taken to imply that WorkCover NSW approves or endorses the product or the brand.
I have read that some companies (Hewlett-Packard for one) have a policy where those who work offsite must read and agree to the guidelines. The recommendations include ergonomic guidelines such as chair, desk, keyboard, mouse, table height. Also included are frequency of breaks. I have not seen the document or policy – anyone have a copy?
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