The primary concerns for most who start working from home revolve around having an adequate place to work. And while having a separate, comfortable, and inviting space is important, it is hardly the only thing to consider when transitioning to working from home. At an office or workplace, there is a plan in place to ensure the facility is safe; when working from home, you need to be that team. So here are safety practices to consider when working from home.
- Driving Safety – Many who work from home are required to, from time to time, meet coworkers, clients, or bosses in other locations. Others are required to routinely drive to supply stores for things like toner, paper, or other office supplies which might be supplied at an office. And while this kind of routine driving might seem like a non-issue, many who work from home and are running to a store or a meeting nearby may be engaged in emailing, taking a conference call, or other work tasks while driving, that would otherwise not be done during non-working hours travel. This can be a safety risk and can cause easily avoidable accidents.
- Hazard Assessment – Employers are required to assess any workplace for hazards, however, those who work from home are generally required to do that, themselves. And since this is your home, you may not consider it a “hazardous” place. However, what impact will additional equipment, electronics, or time spent in your home have on safety? Things as simple as putting too much on a shelf or leaving loose wires out can cause serious injuries at home. Review your home for hazards as if it weren’t your home, and you might be surprised at what you find.
- Work Area Setup Review – After setting up your work area with all of the required equipment and technology, review it like you would any other workplace. Ensure the lighting, temperature, and ventilation is all acceptable for prolonged periods of time. Ensure there is adequate space to work all day, and check that the chair and desk are ergonomic and will not cause injury from prolonged use. A location that is appropriate for working for a half hour twice a week may not be appropriate for full-time use, and it is important to ensure that your home office is.
- Set Working Hours – When working from home, it is common to assume you can start when you used to leave for work and stop when you would otherwise have been home. But then, you might also put in some time at night, or on the weekend, or start a little early, or keep going a little late or…you get the picture. What starts with a few innocent extra hours can quickly lead to a lot of extra work, which can lead to unnecessary stress and fatigue. Set working hours as you would have if you went to work to avoid burning out.
- Set Evacuation Routes – This one may sound silly, but in the event, there is a fire, earthquake, or other emergencies it is important to know how you will get out of your home office. You will be spending a lot more time in a specific room which will likely have one door and one window; if a fire starts in the kitchen where will you go? If there is an earthquake, tornado, or other natural disasters, where will you go? Though it sounds unlikely, should something happen it is important to be prepared.
- Electrical Review – For many, there will be added equipment, electronics, and stress on the outlets when they begin working from home. And if they run the wires, there is always the chance there will be heating next to a flammable item from the wiring or that something is improperly wired. All of this leads to a potential increase in fire risks. Having the circuit breaker, wiring, and set up all reviewed could dramatically reduce the likelihood of a problem.
- Lifting Practices – We often think of lifting injuries from jobs involving a lot of lifting; things like warehouse work, delivery services, or retail. But when you work from home, you will often receive deliveries to your home of work-related equipment or supplies. And those boxes of paper can be very heavy and lead to injury if not properly lifted. So can printers, fax machines, computers, or any other equipment sent to the house. Think before you lift, and don’t hurt yourself carrying boxes to your office alone which might require 2 or 3 people or a hand truck.
By following these simple safety practices when working from home, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of getting hurt.