Although organisations did not have sufficient time to put measures in place to meet the needs of employees currently working from home, there is still room for addressing issues that may arise.
This was pointed out by Chief Labour Officer (Ag), Claudette Hope-Greenidge, on Sunday night, as she participated in the CBC TV programme The People’s Business which addressed COVID-19 and its impact on safety and health in the workplace to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work, April 28. The theme for the day was “Stop the pandemic: safety and health at work can save lives”.
Responding to a query from the public regarding who was liable for an employee being injured while working from home, Mrs. Hope-Greenidge alluded to the fact that redress could still be sought in the same manner as if one were still in the workplace.
She said: “If a person is injured or perceives that he/she is injured as a result of something they are doing while working at home, the person should still go through the same process, inform the employer, contact your medical professional, your doctor, your consultant, still have the same assessment done.
“You still submit your claim as you would if you were still in the office or at the worksite, and the matter would be handled from there. Every situation would turn on its own facts.”
While she stressed the operative thing was that the person was still working , though from home, the Acting CLO noted that the employee was also still contributing and assisting and should be engaged by their superiors.
“So, there are somethings which probably should have been in place but persons did not have a chance to put in place. Now if a person is working from at home, they should still be daily, at least, hopefully more than weekly contact with your supervisor or your employer, so that your supervisor or employer knows if there are any difficulties you may have in relation to your work station and how it may/may not be impacting on your health or safety. So those things should be discussed; there is still some room, although you are working from that distance for employers to give you some coaching in that respect,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation, Sheena Mayers-Granville, offering advice on how to ensure safety and health in the changing workplace that constitutes working from home and teleworking, stressed the need to consider the ergonomics of work stations.
She said: “Have you identified an area where you are going to work from on a regular basis? Is this conducive to working in terms of the lighting, the seating, how you position your computer…. the height of your computer, where you place it; the chair you are sitting in, in terms of ergonomics…. I would say that is one of the major things in terms of working from home.”
Further support also came from Deputy Chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, Harold Oxley.
While noting that a company may provide a laptop or computer to workers as well as guidelines for working from home, he contended that the reality was that many persons did not have the type of ergonomic chairs at home and this might also need to be addressed by the office.
“You can’t ask them or expect them to configure that work space properly if the basic furnishings are not there. So, in addition to the laptop you may have to look at lending them the chair,” Mr. Oxley said.