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Working from home and Occupational Safety and Health

Picture of Faith Chukwuka

Faith Chukwuka

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Working from home has become more common now with the Covid-19 Pandemic. Prime Minister Mottley has asked the public and private sector to work from home where possible. However, although this measure lessens the risk of spread; there is still another risk to workers that must be considered; their safety and health whilst working from home.

The Occupational Safety and Health of employees is critical as they transition to working from home and it becomes even more serious as the risks increase in unknown and uncontrolled environments.  

(Alli) defines Occupational safety and health “as the science of the anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of hazards arising in or from the workplace that could impair the health and well-being of workers…” 

The Safety and Health at Work Act covers Occupational Safety and Health in Barbados and was amended in 2015. While it defines an employee as “any person employed by any employer to do any work for hire or reward,” in (“Country”) it does not give any guidelines to govern working from home. 

Given the nature of the situation which necessitates the current arrangement; Barbadian employers should still make the safety and health of their employees a priority. 

While the standard business would have undergone safety and health inspections and have insurance coverage for the building and equipment, this will not be the case for many homes. These factors and more need to be taken into consideration by employers, as they seek to migrate work to a home-based environment.

It may not be practical at this point for employers to provide their employees with the exact working environment they usually would at the business location. However, these are some steps they can take to ensure the safety and health of employees is not neglected. 

Create or Update Safety and Health policies to include working from home

Covid-19 is relatively new and as such Safety and Health policies may not have measures to handle the life-threatening virus and its implications for the workforce. However, these policies are important as they guide how employers and employees should proceed to ensure optimal safety and health. With the pandemic creating the new work from home dynamic; the policies should be updated to cover requirements necessary to safely work from the new work environment. They should also outline any foreseeable dangers that may arise and ways they will be addressed. 

Provide home-based workspace guideline and safety checklist

The employer should provide hazard and ergonomic checklists which should eliminate or diminish any risk so that their employees can ensure the home environment is safe and poses no threat to their health. Along with the checklist, they can also have an open discussion about any concerns the employee has, or challenges encountered and assist where possible. 

Guidelines could include: 

  1. Sit so that your elbows are keyboard height, your forearms are level with the desk or surface and, your back is supported.
  2. Ensure the top of the screen is about eye level.
  3. If using a laptop, elevate it and use an external keyboard and mouse.
  4. Use quality surge suppressors and refrain from overcrowding sockets.
  5. Take breaks; stand or move away from your workspace every hour.

Provide suitable equipment

When working from home it becomes easy for employees to just get the job done, however, this is usually by sitting on their bed, using their home desktop or laptop, and making calls on their mobile device for example. The employer should provide ergonomic seating, to ensure safe posture, armrest to avoid damage to wrists and suitable screen protection to avoid eye fatigue and damage. 

Offer advice and guidance to ensure employee mental health

Employers should highlight to employees the importance of frequent contact with friends, family, and colleagues to avoid feelings of loneliness, isolation, anxiety, or depression; and provide team building and engaging methods to avoid these.

Some places in Barbados where mental health services can be accessed are:

Network Services Centre – 228-3056/ 228-7773

Supreme Counselling – 538-9769

The Assessment Unit at the Psychiatric Hospital – 536-3091

Teach home-based emergency preparedness 

In the case of an emergency, employers should have in place a suitable emergency plan. They should provide fire safety equipment and first aid kits or provide training on how to prepare their emergency kits and the proper use. 


If the job requires remote access to proprietary or classified documents, or for the employee to physically remove files from the office the employer should ensure that there is a security procedure for storage of equipment or documents. This may be something as simple as a safe or as complex as an encryption on computers or tablets. While it protects the employers’ property it also protects the employee from possible theft. 

If the safety and health of employees are not prioritized the risk of danger increases and the company ends up losing both in manpower and finances.  The responsibility lies with both the employee and employers, use the above checklist to make sure you are on the right path. For further guidance, you can contact us at OutSourced and stay fixed to BimPloy’s website as we share from week to week, relevant and up-to-date advice on burning HR topics. Stay tuned for our next post on Remote Working and Employee Engagement.

Alli, Benjamin O. Fundamental Principles Of Occupational Health And Safety. International Labour Office, 2008.

“Working From Home Short Term Helpful Hints”. Imperial.Ac.Uk, 2021, Accessed 18 Jan 2021.

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