OSH concerned over safety of temporary home-workers

Auckland's energy crisis has led to an upsurge in the number of staff working from home, and that concerns Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) officials. "If there's still an employer/employee relationship then it's still a work-place," says OSH branch manager Kevin Third. That means the employer is responsible for ensuring safe working practices are maintained.

Auckland’s energy crisis has led to an upsurge in the number of staff working from home, and that concerns Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) officials.

“If there’s still an employer/employee relationship then it’s still a work-place,” says OSH branch manager Kevin Third.

That means the employer is responsible for ensuring safe working practices are maintained. “We’ve had inquiries from people working at employers’ homes raising just that issue,” says Third, who points out that the law is quite clear on what is required. “The employer has to ensure that their place of work is suitable.”

Staff who find themselves working away from their regular environment are still covered by OSH laws. “Employees are still required to take steps to prevent harm to themselves, but hazard identification and management are still in the lap of the employer.”

OSH has been trying to advertise this fact but Third says it’s hard to reach everyone. “We’re saying if the power crisis creates new hazards they must be managed the same as any other hazards. Whether they take any notice of that or not is another matter.”

Dr Evan Dryson, an occupational physician who specialises in occupational overuse syndrome, says most home workstations are not set up as well as an office work-station. “Most people shove them on tables or in corners.”

He says the issue of workstation set-up is one that needs to be addressed. “The principle is the same at home as it is at work. You must have a good chair with lumbar support, have your arms at right angles to the desk and the mouse on the same level as the keyboard.”

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