Safety for teleworkers

Sunday, 18 September, 2005

Telework New Zealand has released a guide to occupational safety and health for teleworkers. The guide identifies risks and problems that telework-ers working at home could face. It provides a work sheet to help teleworkers identify problem areas. The guide also provides considerable information on ways in which risks can be minimised and avoided.

The guide, designed for employers to distribute to teleworking staff, is only available from Telework New Zealand. See for more information.

Teleworking is best understood as working from a distance. It usually involves employees working at home or in other locations for some of the time every week.

"Although working from home instead of commuting is becoming an increasingly popular option in New Zealand, there are some problems," says Bevis England, director of Telework New Zealand. "Employers are uncertain about the legal requirements of our occupational safety and health act as it applies to teleworkers." Under New Zealand legislation, employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees, "as far as is practicable". This can be relatively complex for employees who are working 'off-site'.

The guide, written in layman's language, covers a wide variety of potential risks and how to overcome them. It is based on extensive ex-perience and consultation with a variety of professionals. The guide is designed for employers to distribute to their staff before telework starts. It is also designed to supplement the employer's existing OSH guidelines.

"We have found that stress, caused by overwork, performance concerns and inadequate time planning and management skills, can be a major cause of problems in the home office," says England. "We have looked at this issue in some detail within the guide and provide many suggestions and ideas that will be helpful for teleworkers.

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