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Are your employees safe Working from Home?

Whilst it is generally accepted that many businesses made a rapid almost overnight transition to work from home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, eight months on, are your employees safe?

With many employees moving to work from home arrangements initially working from makeshift work areas such as kitchen benches, couches and even lap tables in bed, what are you doing to ensure your employees have moved to more ergonomically suitable work specific areas to reduce their risk of injury or illness?

Flexible arrangements forced by the pandemic are becoming the new ‘normal’ for many workplaces with the realisation that technology, video conferencing and reduced travel time can result in a more productive and less expensive workplace however, these costs will increase greatly if employees are working from home without a suitable set up.

The Work Health and Safety obligations on an employer require that they provide a workplace that is free of risk to their employees so far as is reasonably practicable. As the home office is simply an extension to the workplace, an employer is obligated to ensure that the employee has a suitable work area, as they would be obligated to do so in the office location.

Musculoskeletal injuries caused by poor ergonomic work areas is an obvious risk when considering what injuries may occur in work from home settings. Other injuries and illnesses may include; social isolation from not working in a workplace with their colleagues; fatigue and burnout from not having a work area that they can walk away from forcing that work life balance; and stress caused by job uncertainty.

It is recommended that workplaces begin to return to a new COVID norm, that a reassessment of the flexible work arrangements be undertaken to include the actual workspace setups employees have and how they have coped working in that environment. 

Now is also the time to ensure you have well documented policies, procedures and employment documents which are imperative for clarity of expectations for employees who work remotely due to their lack of face to face contact.

To greater assist your employees with work from home and to minimise their risk you should:-

  • Update all work from home documentation including policies, procedures and checklists to ensure they are fit for purpose.
  • Clarify when a work from home employee is ‘at work’ and when it is their personal time.  Consideration could be given to even shutting off access for employees to systems indicating that they have finished for the day.
  • Talk to your employees regarding safety whilst working at home. Ensure they are aware that their obligation to keep themselves safe and to report any injury, incident or near miss continues to exist as the home is their extended workplace.
  • Investigate any incidents, injuries promptly to understand if they are a work related injury and to assist the employee to reduce or eliminate any future risk.

This article was originally published by HR Advice Online. For more information about our partnership, click here.

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How the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre is far more exciting than its name implies

Yesterday I had the pleasure of touring the new Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) building in Parkville as an invited guest of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. Our hosts from Grocon and Plenary Health showed us around selected areas that were very impressive – not what you may expect of a cancer service!

On entering the 13 story building the stunning internal atrium towers all the way to the roof top garden… a striking feature, but I’ll talk about that later. Still undergoing final touches before the moving in day, the building has three zones: health service delivery, research and back of house (administration). Colour coding is a feature of its leading approach to way-finding through the Centre.

With 160 overnight inpatient beds, a 42-bed capacity intensive care unit and 110 same-day beds, the majority of patients enjoy natural light and some of the best views of Melbourne.

There are also a number of outdoor areas – remember the roof top garden I mentioned earlier? It is one of the largest in Melbourne and features mature trees, a BBQ area and spots for quiet contemplation. All are within easy access to a cafe giving patients and families the opportunity to take in some fresh air and sunshine.

The Centre is a collaborative partnership between Peter Mac, Melbourne Heath, Melbourne University, Plenary Health, VCCC, the Australian and Victorian Governments, and looks to be setting the bar high for facilities combining health research and delivery. True to the aim of architects DesignInc to make ‘a positive difference to the health and happiness of people’s lives,’ the design has been created to encourage knowledge sharing, impacting on breakthroughs to deliver next generation cancer treatments.

VCCC is not only a model for health services of the future. It’s a great example of how more workplaces could be.

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.

Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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