Many people work from home nowadays, whether in a freelance capacity or as part of their role within a business. Unlike the physical workplace, it is the responsibility of the teleworker to maintain a safe working environment from home.
The most basic safety tips: ensure the floor is clear of tripping hazards, that involves paperwork, books and wires. Ensure all smoke and CO detectors are installed and in working condition. Ensure that electrical items and power strips have been safety tested and not working over capacity. Provide adequate lighting in order to reduce eye strain, and use ergonomic equipment in your work station.
Is that all you can do, though? No. There’s plenty more and when you start making a list of safety tips you start to realize the size of the picture, and just how many everyday items can create chaos in the workplace.
Health & Safety
Ergonomics is a science dealing with the design and arrangement of things so that people are able to use them safely and easily. So file cabinets should be arranged so that open drawers do not block paths or create trip hazards. Additionally, the drawers should not be top heavy.
Any carpeting that has frayed edges, or is loose should be inspected and repaired to avoid trips and falls. Throw rugs should not be used in a workspace as they can cause trips.
Despite not being in the workplace, proper lifting techniques should always be used when lifting furniture of equipment. Additionally, if you do have an accident or an injury you should report it to your supervisor.
The temperature of the workspace should be adequate- where possible in summer there should be air conditioning, or a fan- and in winter, heat. In addition, the area must be properly ventilated.
In addition to smoke detectors, it would be wise to develop a fire evacuation plan in the event of an emergency. Every business has these in place, and while it may seem excessive for working from home it’s wise. This is especially important if other people stop by your office space, make sure working visitors are aware of the plan and what to do in the event of a fire.
Additionally, you should have a working fire extinguisher located conveniently that is fully charged and that you know how to use.
The workspace should be kept clear of clutter, trash and flammable liquids. Any portable heaters or radiators should be located in an area separate from flammable items. The walkway should be kept clear and the doorways must be unobstructed.
Clutter should be avoided, to prevent trips as well as to avoid causing fire hazards.
Electrical equipment should be connected to grounded outlets, and computers are heavy objects- so they should only ever be placed on sturdy, well maintained furniture that is on a level surface. The computer, and phones and other electrical equipment, should also be located so that the cords do not create trip hazards. When possible the cords should be secured along the wall, or under a desk. Additionally, all cords should be kept away from heat sources.
At the end of the day all of the electrical equipment should be powered down where possible.
Are there a sufficient number of electrical outlets? Ensure you are not plugging power strips into power strips.
Have you connected your computer equipment to a surge protector? Is your electrical system adequate for office equipment? Are all of your plugs, cords, outlets and panels in good condition? Are there any exposed or damaged wires? Check these on a weekly basis to ensure you are aware of the condition of your electrical equipment.
Your electrical equipment should be placed as close as possible to the outlet to ensure the reduction of trip hazards.
Extension cords should only be used temporarily, not as a long term solution. If you are using extension cords regularly you should consider having an electrician install another outlet or two.
Equipment should be turned off when not in use, this will reduce heat, extend the life of your equipment, as well as reduce fire hazards.
Building on the back of the need for adequate lighting, consider the location of your computer to ensure there is no glare from windows. Ensure the monitor is at a safe height which is both comfortable, while not causing back or neck strain. The keyboard should be located at a height that will not cause wrist strain. When choosing an office chair ensure that you opt for a chair that provides supportive backrests and is adjustable to provide you with optimum comfort.
Chair wheels should be secure, and chair legs must be sturdy. Check these on a weekly basis to prevent accidents.
Do your feet meet the floor in order to offer an adequate footrest, if not does your chair have a footrest?
Does your desk have sufficient leg room for you to stretch and remain comfortable throughout the work day?
Is the top of your computer screen at eye level? Is there space to rest your arms while not actively typing.
Are you using a reputable and reliable antivirus on your computer? Is it up to date and are you running scans regularly?
Files should be stored in a locked filing cabinet when not in use.
Is your equipment in a secure place in order to protect it from misuse or damage?
Have you created an inventory list of your office equipment, including the serial numbers?
The workspace should be devoted to your work needs and located away from distractions and excess noise. It should be an appropriate size to accommodate the equipment and workstation as well as any related material.
When you consider the health and safety expectations that are applied in the workplace the picture becomes clear; your home workspace is an extension of the physical workplace and safety is still paramount.