Workplace Safety in a Remote Work World

There has been a significant shift towards work-at-home arrangements over the past few years and many see the remote workplace as a permanent feature in the future. For organizations, this is a good time to think about new workplace safety needs in this virtual environment. As we prepare for National Preparedness Month, here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you know where everyone is? From fires to tornados to hurricanes, regional disasters are increasingly common. Do you have a way to monitor where all your employees are, and a mechanism or process for flagging when one of them may be facing a local event? Do you have standard processes for them to report into you that they are OK or in trouble?
  • Do you have a way to reach everyone off-network? With “cloud-based everything” when it comes to technology, it is easy to assume you will always have email and organization cell service during a disaster. Do you have an alternative way of reaching people if a network is compromised, through a cyberattack or natural disaster? Personal phone call trees and personal email directories are good back-up plans to implement.
  • What are you buying people? This is both a policy question and a practical purchasing question. What would an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector notice if she or he toured all your remote worker’s spaces?  Would the spaces be clear of slip, trip and fall hazards? Would ergonomic chairs or adjustable desk risers be present for employees needing them? Do you have a policy for purchasing equipment for your employees working at home, and if so, what have you actually bought? Noticing trends across incidents and purchases may signal ongoing needs to budget for in the future.
  • What’s your level of risk? Is workplace safety something your teleworkers think about or that you talk about with them? Could you demonstrate your commitment to workplace safety if needed? Have you had reports of workplace injuries from any teleworkers? Are there small steps you could take to mitigate any risks, like offering training or documenting purchases that support safety?

National Preparedness Month offers a good annual opportunity to check in on workplace safety more generally. Be careful out there!