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KU-EHS April Safety Tip: Work at Home Safety

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Work-From-Home Best Practices in the Midst of COVID-19

As countries across the globe grapple with COVID-19, many people in the U.S. are dealing with a new reality – telecommuting. Working from home may be completely new for some, while others may have some experience occasionally working remotely, such as during inclement weather. No matter your history, working from home may be the new norm for many employees.


Identifying the best place to work from home can go a long way toward being productive. Find an area that is quiet, free from interruptions and has good lighting. Make sure your work area has temperature controls and is free of tripping hazards. You will also want to make sure you are set up well ergonomically, which means designing a safe and efficient job environment to work in, wherever that environment might be. For example, your chair, monitor and keyboard should be arranged so that you can keep your body in a neutral position. Make sure you are not sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time. Relieve stress on your body by taking frequent breaks, varying your tasks and stretching regularly. And, just as with onsite work, you should follow your organization’s procedures for safe lifting and personal protective equipment, as well as outlined precautions for electricity and hazardous materials.


Working from home means less in-person interaction with your colleagues, but it does not mean you can’t connect with them in other ways. Scheduling video chats or meetings is a fantastic way to keep interaction with your coworkers going. If you don’t have video capabilities, regular phone calls can also help keep you connected. In addition, you can plan or participate in fun activities with your remote colleagues, such as virtual coffee breaks, group walking challenges or sharing photos of your unique home work spaces. While it is important to avoid distractions during your work day, taking time to interact with fellow employees can help you avoid feelings of isolation and make your day feel more “normal.”


Employees working from home should make sure they are prepared if an emergency arises. They should have easy access to first aid supplies. They should also have an emergency preparedness plan in place specific to their home. The plan should include what alert mechanisms are available to them, such as fire alarms and weather radios. It should also include the locations of the closest hospitals and shelters. Keeping clean water, food andgenerators on hand is also recommended.


A crucial element to ensure work-from-home success is making sure you have the equipment and tools you need to do your job. This includes laptops, monitors, keyboards and other computer-related devices. A strong internet connection is also recommended. Remote workers will want to consider having their work phone forwarded to their cell or house phone. In addition, utilizing video conferencing tools is a great way to make sure important meetings are not missed, and embracing instant messaging tools can help with short, quick communications between you and your colleagues. Employees will also need to evaluate whether they need network access, passcodes and instructions for remote login.


Working from home may mean a shift in how you work and interact with your coworkers and supervisor. Connect with your manager to understand remote work policy and expectations. Is working your normal schedule required? Are you able to adjust your hours based on needs at home? Does your employer expect you to be on call 24-7? Getting answers to these questions up front will help alleviate issues and uncertainty down the road.


Work Safe at Home Checklist


  • Floors are clear and free of hazards?
  • Work area is reasonably quiet and free of distractions?
  • File drawers are not top-heavy?
  • Phone lines and electrical cords are secured under a desk on the along wall, and away from heat sources?
  • Temperature, ventilation and lighting are adequate? First aid supplies are readily available?


  • Walkways, aisles and doorways are unobstructed?
  • Working smoke detector covering the designated workspace?
  • Charged, accessible fire extinguisher in area?
  • More than one exit from work area?
  • Workspace is kept free of trash, clutter and flammable liquids? Are all radiators and portable heaters located away from flammable items?


  • Is computer equipment is connected to a surge protector?
  • Electrical system is adequate for office equipment?
  • All electrical plugs, cords, outlets and panels in good condition? No exposed/damaged wiring?
  • Extension cords and power strips not daisy chained and no permanent extension cord in use?
  • Electrical cords run in non-traffic areas, do not run under rugs, and are not nailed or stapled in place?
  • Equipment turned off when not in use?
  • Electrical outlets are grounded with three-pronged plugs?


  • Office furniture and equipment ergonomically correct?
  • Desk is 29 inches high?
  • Chair is sturdy and adjustable with backrest and casters appropriate for floor surface?
  • When keying, are your forearms close to parallel with the floor?
  • Monitor is 20-24 inches from eyes and top of screen is slightly below eye level?
  • Is your chair adjustable and do you know how to adjust it?
  • Do you have a business chair with five support legs and casters?
  • Do your feet reach the floor when seated or fully supported by a footrest?
  • Is your back adequately supported by a backrest?
  • Is your computer screen free from noticeable glare?
  • Do you have adequate lighting at the workstation?


  • Files and data are secure?
  • Materials and equipment are in a secure place that can be protected from damage or misuse?
  • Is there an exit that allows prompt exiting?
  • Do you have an inventory of all equipment in the office including serial numbers when possible

Download checklist pdf

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