Risk Management |
Article by Stefanie Nobriga, Bolton & Company
From the November/December 2020 Net Assets magazine
As we continue to adapt to altered working conditions and consider best practice for remote work, now is the time to review ergonomic tips, safety considerations and legal concerns associated with poor remote working conditions.
Some of us have passed the six- or nine-month mark of working from home, and the discomfort of working in awkward positions and the lack of proper equipment may now be surfacing. Staff may still be challenged to locate a proper workspace within their home and find themselves working from dining room tables or living room couches. Even for others in more comfortable environments, it can be easy to overlook ergonomics. Unhealthy behaviors can lead to long-term problems.
“An injury that arises out of, or in the course of work is compensable even if [employees] are working from home. So employers should strongly consider providing home ergonomics equipment and training to prevent or mitigate any potential work-from-home claims.”
Kevin MuiBolton & Company
Schools’ responsibility to keep staff safe and provide Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and workers’ compensation accommodations extends to the home work environment. Be aware that working from home may expose your school to risks not covered by your current business insurance. Familiarize yourself with liabilities associated with staff working from home.
“An injury that arises out of, or in the course of work is compensable even if [employees] are working from home,” said Kevin Mui, Bolton’s workers’ compensation manager. “So employers should strongly consider providing home ergonomics equipment and training to prevent or mitigate any potential work-from-home claims.”
What employers are required to provide employees varies by jurisdiction, explained Carly Alba, Bolton’s property and casualty claims manager. For example, in California, “an employer must reimburse an employee for all ‘necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence or discharge of his or her duties,’” she said. “An employee bringing a successful claim for failure to reimburse expenses under this statute is entitled to recover their attorneys’ fees, and civil penalties can be assessed against the employer.”
Providing staff with tools to self-evaluate their home workstation as well as basic equipment can assist in identifying ergonomic deficiencies early and prevent fatigue or even injury as well as avoid legal issues. Consider overall employee safety and health when determining what type of equipment you plan to provide to your staff when they must work from home. Consider an allowance or permit staff to take office chairs, keyboards, mouse, monitors and foot or back rests home. The cost of providing this equipment is minimal when considering the cost of a workers’ compensation or ADA claim. Providing staff with training on how to set up a home workstation can also go a long way to preventing problems and avoiding the human and economic cost of injury.
Have staff complete safety surveys and virtual inspections of the home environment. Create a checklist for staff use that includes confirming adequate fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. Check in with staff members periodically to assure they continue to follow safety policies and have them check their homeowners policies for adequate insurance coverage to cover damages that may occur during working hours.
Keyboard and mouse
—Assembled by Amber Stockham, NBOA’s director, human resources programs
Emergency Telework Policy (NBOA Library 2020)
Employee Handbook Policies for the Pandemic (NBOA Library 2020)
Successfully Managing Remote Employees (web-only article, April 2020)
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