WorkSafe Victoria has just released some guidance material, where employees may find themselves working from home or other locations due to the current situation faced worldwide with Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Whether working from home is a reasonably practicable measure will depend on the specifics of the workplace, the facilities available for employees to work remotely and the ability for employees to do their work safely from home.
Employers must consult with employees so far as is reasonably practicable, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect or are likely to directly affect them. These matters may include, but are not limited to:
The applicable legislation defines 'a workplace as a place, whether or not in a building or structure, where employees or self-employed persons work'. As a result, a WorkSafe inspector can still visit this place of work. However, in Victoria the OHS Act 2004, Section 107 limits the inspector's authority where the place is used for residential purposes. There are some exemptions to this rule which include, obtaining consent of the occupier for the time being of the place and/or under the authority conferred by a search warrant.
Whilst you are working from home you still have obligations to your employer which include, taking reasonable care of your own health and safety, and that of others who may be affected by your acts or omissions in the workplace. Furthermore, you must also cooperate with your employer's actions to make the workplace safe, for example, by following any information, instruction or training provided.
It may be worth checking to see if your organisation has a health and safety procedure on working from home with a simple checklist or risk assessment. These documents may assist in creating a safer, healthier work environment.