The lockdown in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made remote work essential. Even as businesses slowly reopen, it may not be safe or practical for you to recall your entire staff at once. Most of your workers will continue working from home till the health crisis improves.
The Occupational Health and Safety legislation still applies to employees working from home. It is the employer’s general duty to take all reasonable precautions for the health and safety of the employees. You have an obligation to ensure the home office set up of your staff is safe.
British Columbia and Alberta have released safety guidelines for employees working from home during the pandemic. Ontario does not have a specific regulation on working alone, but relies on the employer’s general duty as defined under the OHS Act.
Here are some good practices to follow to ensure the safety of your remote staff:
Review health and safety hazards at home
Prepare a working-from-home OHS checklist. Ask your employees to complete and return it to you.
Provide ergonomic equipment if needed
An improperly adjusted workstation can increase the risk of developing musculoskeletal injuries. You may have to provide ergonomic equipment, such as desks, chairs, monitors, etc, if needed.
Apprise staff of remote work policies
Make sure you have a remote work policy in place for your business. Remind employees that all company policies continue to apply to remote workers. These should include policies on drug and alcohol use, bullying and harassment, workplace violence and personal protective equipment.
Get an Isolation Policy if required
Your employee may work from a home space where immediate aid in case of an emergency is not available. You should consider creating a Working Alone or in Isolation Policy in such cases. This policy should identify and review possible hazards present in the remote workplace. It should also establish a regular check-in schedule.
Support employees at risk of domestic violence
Your staff working from home may be at a greater risk of domestic violence. Set up a system for such employees to be able to privately report to you.
Provide emotional support
Some employees may be experiencing additional stress related to job security and finances. They may also be taking care of their kids while working from home. Or they may be worried for the health and safety of family and friends. Managers should consider conducting regular check-ins with staff. Encourage your employees to make time for self-care. Ask them to seek help if the current crisis is taking a toll on their mental health.
If you offer an Employee Assistance Program, remind your workers how to access it and what services are available to them.