Occupational safety during teleworking
- The employer shall be responsible for the employee’s occupational health and safety during teleworking.
- The employer shall also prepare a risk analysis of the working environment in the case of teleworking.
- The employer shall also investigate occupational accidents that occurred during teleworking.
How are the risks of teleworking assessed?
As with any other job, the employer shall carry out a risk assessment of the working environment in order to protect the employees’ health. Risk assessment shall be based on the nature of the specific work. The risks associated with the place of work, the use of work equipment, and the organisation of work shall be assessed.
The risk assessment shall:
- identify the working environment hazards that may harm the employee;
- assess their impact on the health and safety of employees.
Based on the results of the risk assessment, measures shall be taken, if necessary, to prevent risks to the health of employees.
An employer can enable teleworking in jobs where the risk of damage to the employee’s health is low and the employee is able to manage the hazards in the environment on-site on the basis of the employer’s instructions (e.g. work using computer, easier handicrafts). As it is difficult for an employer to adequately control an employee’s working conditions in a teleworking environment, teleworking should not be performed if special requirements apply to the working environment (e.g. forced ventilation, noise insulation).
If an employee performs his or her duties by way of teleworking at home, he or she may allow the employer to identify the risks in the working environment on site (e.g. risk assessment in the home office or home workshop). As the inviolability of home and protection of privacy are values protected by the Constitution, the employer can only assess the risks in the employee’s home with the employee’s consent.
If an employee performs work using information and communication technology (e.g. computer, tablet, telephone) or simpler handicrafts equipment (e.g. knitting needles) and works in a place suitable to him or her as agreed, a questionnaire can be used to assess the risks and the employee can send photos of the workplace. The employer can assess whether the workplace is safe and healthy or whether adjustments are needed based on the questionnaire and photos.
If the employee works with machinery or tools at home based on an agreement with the employer, the employer shall assess the risks involved and mitigate them (in particular, the employer shall ensure safety of the equipment, adequate instruction and training, and provide appropriate personal protective equipment, including maintenance and control of the PPE). This, however, can be difficult.
The risk assessment of the working environment shall be prepared in a format which can be reproduced in writing.
The risks of teleworking shall be assessed before the employee commences teleworking. The employer shall update the risk assessment if:
- working conditions or the working environment have changed significantly;
- work equipment or technologies have been changed or been upgraded;
- new data on the effects of the risk hazard on human health have emerged;
- the level of risk has changed from the initial level due to an accident or unsafe situation; the occupational health doctor has identified the employee has developed occupational disease;
- the labour inspector has established in the course of supervision that the risk analysis does not adequately assess the risks present in the working environment, among other things that the parameters of the risk factors have not been measured or no measures have been taken to mitigate the risks.
What should be considered when supervising an employee performing his or her duties by way of teleworking?
The main way for an employer to mitigate the risks of a place of teleworking is to supervise the employee. Therefore, the employer shall pay special attention to the instructions, e.g. prepare illustrative and simple material (e.g. pictures of a suitable sitting position or position of the monitor).
Instruction shall be given before an employee is allowed to telework.
In the case of teleworking, the employer shall provide the following to the employee:
- the results of the risk assessment of the working environment, including the employee’s working environment hazards, health risks and measures taken to prevent damage to health;
- safety requirements for the work to be performed and the work equipment used;
- ergonomically correct working positions and techniques;
- use of personal protective equipment if required;
- where necessary, what to do in the event of damage to health, including instructions for first aid, use of first aid equipment and its location,
- emergency number 112 and contact details of the first aid provider;
- electrical and fire safety requirements;
instructions on what to do in the case of risk of an accident and an accident, safety signs used in the workplace, and locations of emergency exits and routes and fire-extinguishing appliances; instructions for preventing contamination of the environment.
An employee performing his or her duties by way of teleworking shall know the contact details of the employer’s working environment specialist and working environment representative (if a representative has been elected) and the undertaking’s occupational health and safety requirements, where applicable.
After receiving instructions, the employee shall be able to notice and mitigate the hazards. An employer shall allow an employee to work if the employer is convinced that the employee can apply safe working techniques in practice.
Instructions shall be repeated if:
- significant changes have taken place in the place of teleworking (the teleworking environment has changed, new hazards have arisen); the employee’s duties have changed;
- the employee has new work equipment or technology at his or her disposal;
- the employee violated occupational safety requirements and this caused or could have caused an accident, including an occupational accident; the employee, the employer or the Labour Inspectorate deems it necessary.
How to meet other occupational safety requirements in the case of teleworking?
The employee and employer adhere to the remaining occupational health and safety requirements in the context of teleworking to the greatest extent possible considering the nature of teleworking. For example, the employer generally does not have to provide and maintain adequate non-work rooms (e.g. adequate resting rooms, dressing rooms) or arrange the provision of first aid (the employer can provide a first aid kit and information on how to proceed in an emergency).
The employer shall acquire work equipment for an employee performing his or her duties by way of teleworking and maintain such equipment (e.g. computer, printer, mouse pad, ergonomic chair). The employer has the right to compensate for the work equipment of an employee performing his or her duties by way of teleworking exempt from income tax, but in this case the expenses shall be documented. More information is available on the website of the Tax and Customs Board.
If the employee has suitable work equipment (e.g. computer) and the employer and the employee have agreed on its use for the performance of duties, the employer is not obliged to procure additional work equipment.
The requirements for working and rest time shall be met in the case of teleworking (e.g. the employer cannot expect the employee to work from home without breaks and outside the agreed working hours).
What should employees performing their duties by way of teleworking do to ensure safety?
The employee shall work with the employer to create a safe environment for teleworking. As it is not really possible for an employer to control or influence all the teleworking environments, the employee has a greater role in creating and maintaining safe teleworking conditions.
The employee shall identify the hazards in the teleworking environment in cooperation with the employer.
The employee shall follow the instructions given by the employer in making the teleworking environment safe. Therefore, the person performing his or her duties by way of teleworking plays an important role in ensuring his or her safety. For example, in the case of teleworking, the employee shall adjust the position of his or her chair and monitor, take regular breaks to move around and rest his or her eyes, avoid working in a noisy environment, choose or adjust the workplace to have adequate lighting, etc.
The employee shall inform the employer of any changes in the working conditions related to teleworking (e.g. the agreed location of teleworking changes).
The employee shall do everything possible to avoid accidents in the teleworking environment.
The employee shall immediately inform the employer of an occupational accident or other dangerous situation that occurred in the course of teleworking. If an accident occurs in the teleworking environment that cannot be attributed to work, it is not an occupational accident.
Main recommendations to persons performing their duties by way of teleworking using a laptop or tablet:
- The place of teleworking shall be well lit to prevent reduced visual acuity, headaches, and fatigue.
- Change positions and take breaks to prevent musculoskeletal disorders.
- Be sure to stretch and do some exercises during breaks.
- Place the monitor at an arm’s length so that its top edge is in line with or slightly lower than your eyes.
- The back of your chair should especially support the lower back and be at an angle of 90-120 degrees.
- When sitting, support your feet fully on the floor; if your feet do not reach the floor properly, use a footrest.
- Support your forearms on the table (or chair armrests), keeping your wrists as straight as possible when using a keyboard and mouse.
Can a teleworker have an occupational accident?
An occupational accident occurs when the accident is causally related to the employee’s work or working environment and it occurs when the employee:
- was performing his or her duties
- was performing other work with the permission of the employer
- acted in the interests of the employer
- was on a break included in working time.
If a connection to work is established in the event of an accident during teleworking, it is considered an occupational accident.
Before teleworking, the employer and the employee shall think about how the employee should act in the event of an occupational accident. In any case, the employee shall immediately inform the employer of the accident.
The employer shall ascertain the connection between the accident and work in the course of an investigation. The employee who was involved in the occupational accident during teleworking shall inform the employer of the circumstances of the accident. For example, it shall be considered an occupational accident if the employee was injured at home due to failure of the work equipment. An accident that occurred while doing housework at home is not an occupational accident.
Even in the event of an accident that occurred during teleworking, the employer shall first ascertain whether it was an occupational accident. The circumstances and causes of the accident shall then be determined in order to prevent similar occupational accidents from occurring in the future by taking appropriate action.
The employer has 10 working days to investigate an occupational accident, and a working environment representative shall be involved in the investigation.
Upon completion of the investigation, either a formal report or an instrument in free form shall be prepared (if the investigation reveals that the incident was not an occupational accident). The report or instrument shall be forwarded to the Labour Inspectorate and the injured party or a person representing his or her interests within three working days after the completion of the investigation. It is not necessary to prepare a formal report or instrument or forward it to the Labour Inspectorate if the employee was not issued a certificate of incapacity for work because of a minor occupational accident. In this case, the employer decides on the method of investigation and the necessary actions.
When enabling teleworking, the employer shall do everything possible to prevent occupational accidents. The employer can assess the risks as well and also provide the employee with guidance.