New guide for healthy & safe work from home
What will it mean in practice?
A couple of weeks ago, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (a part of the Ministry of Labour) issued the Guide for Healthy & Safe Work from Home. Although strictly speaking the Guide is not a formal source of law, it may be helpful in thinking about what might be the expectations of the labour authorities when it comes to employers’ obligations towards home based employees.
The Guide points out that the employers with employees working from home have general obligations arising from the Law on Occupational H&S and subordinated bylaws, although the OH&S regulation does not specifically address remote work.
In that context, the Guide reiterates that the employers have to:
- Determine whether a specific job can be safely performed from home;
- Determine whether all the conditions needed for safe work are in place;
- In cooperation with an employee, provide optimal working conditions, take care of work organization, provide means of work (unless the employee uses their own equipment), and keep track of working hours and breaks.
In addition, the Guide indicates that a Risk Assessment can cover also the home based jobs, as well as the office-performed ones. The Risk Assessment represents a mandatory document identifying risks associated with each job within an organizational structure, and measures for dealing with them. This document is being prepared in cooperation with a licensed OH&S officer or an external entity providing OH&S services. When assessing risks of the home based jobs, the risks related to the i) work environment, ii) working in front of the screen (computers, smartphones, tablets etc.), iii) fire outbreak and iv) mental health of the employees, should be especially considered. To that end, the Guide provides a control list, which should be a starting point in planning implementation of the OHS measures.
The Guide also gives some rather precise recommendations on how the home based jobs should be organised, such as:
- Defining which part of the home is regarded as a place of work;
- Keeping the place of work clean, without obstacles and waste;
- Positioning and securing the electrical installations (power sockets, power socket extensions etc.) in a way that the employee is protected from fire or explosion;
- Providing adjustable monitor stand, separate keyboard, ergonomic adjustable chair;
- Providing adequate environment in terms of light, noise, temperature;
As said already, the Guide does not represent a formal source of law, so it does not impose strict obligations for the employers. Nevertheless, the recommendations from the Guide may serve as a reference point for the authorities, when assessing whether the employer observes its general obligation to provide healthy and safe work conditions for its home based employees.
It seems reasonable that the employers should try give their best to meet the recommendations from the Guide as much as possible. Generally speaking, those employers who might not have paid much attention to specificities of working from home should take more time to think about the formalities arising from such work organization. Rule of thumb for the employers would be to consider including home based jobs in the Risk Assessment, the same way as the jobs performed from the employer’s premises are being included. In any case, it remains to be seen to what extent these new recommendations will be offset against advantages that the remote work brings to both employers and employees.
More information can be found here (available only in Serbian).