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  1. #1

    How to manage OH&S for teleworkers?

    I'm hoping some of the safety experts on this forum can explain what an employer's responsibilities are regarding staff who work from home from on an ad hoc basis (usually when it suits them).

    As an employer are we supposed to be visiting their homes and making sure their working environment is safe?
    Last edited by admin; 03-01-2013 at 10:38 AM. Reason: corrected spelling in title

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    carrum downs Victoria, Australia
    Simple answer is yes - you should check that they have a safe workplace for both themselves and any person that visits the workarea and you should monitor their working conditions ( for no new hazards and that the controls you require are in place and working ) and your safe systems of work to ensure they are following your safety procedures.

    A good idea is to have very clearly defined working areas as opposed to a whole house and that you check that this is being complied with, but remember access and egress has to be considered as well as emergency plans,chemical registers and plant and electrical issues related to the work area.

    A further problem can also include IR issues as well as OHS as you need to monitor fatigue, erganomics and security.


  3. #3
    Tracker, does the same go for everyone who undertakes work at home as part of their job?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    carrum downs Victoria, Australia
    Sally, If you are covered by the WHS Act - " A workplace is a place where work is carried out for a business or undertaking and includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work " and Victorian OHS Act " workplace means a place, whether or not in a building or structure, where employees or self-employed persons work."
    This would allow an Inspector to enter without a warrant although most Safety Regulators would be reluctant to do so without good reason.

  5. #5
    Well, safety in the workplace is something that needs to be checked even among workers who work from home. Tracker, what do you mean by ergonomics? And why is there need to monitor fatigue?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    carrum downs Victoria, Australia
    Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of the interactions among humans and other elements of a system.
    Ergonomists ( trained professionals ) contribute to the planning, design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, organizations, environments and systems in order to make them compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations of people and their working enviroment.
    Fatigue is caused by prolonged periods of physical and/or mental exertion without enough time to rest and recover. The level of fatigue varies, and depends on and can be contributed to by :
    •Length of the shift;
    •Previous hours and days worked; and
    •Time of day or night worked.
    •Extended working hours;
    •Irregular and unpredictable working hours;
    •Time of day when work is performed and sleep obtained;
    •Shift work;
    •Having more than one job
    •Stress involved in the work including mental, physical and enviroment like heat and cold.

    They can all be monitored ( not that they always are ) at a normal workplace but when working at home the employer must consider if they form a hazard in the workplace, the controls needed and that monitoring is carried out to ensure all that can reasonably be done to minimise the risk is done.


  7. #7
    While there is an increasing propensity for white collar employers to allow some staff to work from home from time to time, there is one profession that comes to mind where employees are actually expected to work from home - teachers in secondary schools.

    I don't know how much this applies in State schools, but in the private schools there is a clear expectation that staff will work from home in the evenings and weekends, to do marking, report writing or curriculum material preparation.

    So are schools responsible for OH&S when teachers are working from home?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    carrum downs Victoria, Australia

    When you say " actually expected to work from home " you are getting into Industrial Relations territory. You need to look at their contract of employment, Position Descriptions and hours of work etc etc - are they being directed to work or are they carrying it out because they believe they are expected to ?
    Empoyees forget that if you are directed to work you should be paid but, out a sense of duty and / or convience, carry out unpaid work. The employer doesn't ask questions because they get the final result, but if you asked them they would say " they were not directed and I have no control of them out of working hours "
    If you have questions in the area of IR talk to your Union as they will give a clear answer on your rights and how it would be viewed by Fair Work Australia or the State IR Commission ( if you have one ).


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Great point about teachers - my mother has done a lot of work after hours at home for years, but I've never heard of any OHS requirements for her work space. With that case about the woman being injured while having sex 'on the job' because she was travelling for work now in the high court, I guess we might get some definitive answers as to how far duty of care extends for OHS.

  10. #10
    I have heard that that case has been overturned on appeal. The more applicable one in this instance is the one (sorry can't remember the details off the top of my head) against Telstra (?) last year where the woman fell down her stairs at home when she was walking to the kitchen during a working at home day.

    If I get the time I will dig the link up and post



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