Wednesday, July 1, 2015

All the World's an Office . . . What Are the Risks?

With workers no longer tied to their desks to make calls, answer and send e-mails, work on presentations and participate in conference calls, the world is becoming one large office. So employers need to step back and get a broader view of worker safety. As Peylina Chu writes in a recent post on Entrepreneur: "With all the workplace options employees are expecting today, it might seem daunting to create a workplace that encourages and nurtures safety," Chu says. "But virtual worker safety doesn’t mean employers should restrict workplace options – they should embrace them."

Chu, a senior consultant with Antea Group, outlines three steps that should guide these efforts--and they should sound familiar to OSH professionals.
  1. Identify risks."Your employees need to be safe regardless of their location, whether they are working from home, in the office or commuting on a tech bus," Chu explains. She also warns that a company that isn't proactive in this area is simply "perpetuating a laissez faire culture of ill preparedness and reactivity to risks." Beyond the known costs related to medical treatment, lost wages and reduced productivity, such a reputation can also hinder efforts to recruit and keep the best employees, Chu adds.
  2. Develop and implement procedures. "To begin combating the risks to your virtual workforce, it’s important to identify and understand not only the risks for virtual workers, but also issues plaguing in-office employees," Chu says, citing poor ergonomics, inadequate training and improper equipment as common concerns. "With a better understanding of issues at hand, you’ll be able to prioritize fixes based on the widest-spreading, most damaging concerns plaguing the overall workforce."
  3. Nurture a culture of safety. This "perpetuates a focus on safety that feeds back into business goals," Chu remarks. Key to building this culture is an open dialogue with employees that shows an awareness and responsiveness to their concerns.