Preventing injuries while working from home
30 March 2022
More Queenslanders are working from home now than before the pandemic, and many workplaces are keen to retain the benefits of remote working into the future.
According to Australian Productivity Commission research published in September 2021, around 40 per cent of Australians are now working from home, compared to 8 per cent before the pandemic.
So how do employers ensure that their workers have a safe and healthy working environment at home, and how does WorkCover determine claims for injuries that happen when working from home?
Working from home injury statistics
To the end of December 2021, just over 100 claims from workers were accepted by WorkCover Queensland, where the circumstance of the injury was working from home. Working from home injuries are a very small proportion of all claims accepted, with more than 65,000 claims accepted across the scheme in 2020-2021. The most common work from home injuries were fractures, occupational overuse injuries, soft tissue injuries and back injuries.
How we determine claims for working from home injuries
We apply the same statutory tests to claims for work from home injuries as we do for any other injury. This means the person’s employment must be a significant contributing factor to the injury to be eligible for compensation. However, not all injuries that occur during a day or shift working from home will necessarily be covered.
Find out more about how we determine claims. We consider each application on the individual circumstances of each injury, but here is some guidance on when we may or may not cover claims:
- An impromptu jogging break during the workday may not be considered an ordinary recess and may not be covered.
- If the workday or shift starts at one place of work (home or workplace) and the worker travels to the other location as a part of their shift, that trip may be considered a work-related journey.
Hargreaves and Telstra Corporation Limited  AATA 417 (17 June 2011) The Administrative Appeals Tribunal applied federal workers’ compensation legislation to determine whether two injuries to the worker in her home arose out of or in the course of her employment (shared wording with the Queensland legislation). The worker fell in August 2006 and again in October 2006 on steps within her home, on days when she was working from home. The Tribunal looked at the circumstances of both incidents and concluded that both injuries arose out of or in the course of her employment. The Tribunal noted:
Incident 1 – the worker had already logged on and worked for a few hours, she fell whilst retrieving cough medicine from another part of the house, which the Tribunal deemed to be a work necessity.
Incident 2 – again the worker had logged into work and commenced working, she fell whilst checking that her front door was locked, her employer had previously instructed her to check the door due to a recent burglary in the area, therefore, the Tribunal said, the fall was an incident of her employment. The key point to take away is that each claim will be looked at on its own merits.
Your obligations and additional resources
Employers’ obligations to provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment extends to the home office environment.
Health and Safety Checklist for working from home can help you implement a safe home working environment
Healthy Habits at Home checklist to help assess health and lifestyle risks when working from home.
Working from home safety module
Webinar from Professor Sharon Parker on the changes in work during COVID-19 and beyond.
Disclaimer: Following the advice on this website does not necessarily mean an employer has discharged the duty of care to its workers. Each employer must consider the circumstances of their staff, the nature of the work, and take reasonably appropriate steps to ensure their workers’ safety.