I'm working from home because of the Coronavirus. Is there anything I should do, health and safety-wise?

Q:

I'm working from home because of the Coronavirus. Is there anything I should do to stay safe, healthy, and prevent spreading the virus?

A:

As someone who has worked from home for the last seven years or so, I know that there are some important safety considerations even when you're not on a job site.

Even if your work is done at a desk, at a computer, or on the phone, there are still hazards to worry about. That's especially true now that COVID-19 is spreading.

(Find out How to Manage COVID-19 in Your Workplace.)

First, do a hazard inventory of your home office. Some things to consider include:

  1. Floors and stairs, entry and exits are clean and in good repair, free of obstructions
  2. Cabinets, furniture, and equipment greater than four feet in height are anchored to the wall
  3. File cabinets are loaded properly
  4. Shelves have lips or other means to restrain books and other supplies
  5. Lighting (general and task specific) is adequate
  6. Ventilation and air quality
  7. Working fire extinguisher in the area
  8. Combustible materials
  9. All electrical is in good condition, no exposed or damaged wiring, and there are grounded outlets for office equipment; plug-ins are not overloaded, surge preventers are in place
  10. Have you received training on workstation ergonomics?
  11. If you have an employer, what are their policies, procedures, and resources for employees who work from home?
  12. The area is cleaned and sanitized with approved products for germs, viruses, and mold (especially the stuff you bring home from the office)

Ergonomics

Can you be seated comfortably and work at your computer for extended periods of time (two or more hours at a time)?

Is your home office chair adjustable?

Use an office ergonomic assessment tool to help you make positive changes to your set-up.

Environment

Look for features of your home office that will impact your comfort and productivity. Things like room temperature, humidity, and air changes.

Portable fans and heaters might be needed. Warm is good for a home office. Cool is better. But hot will leave you face down, asleep on your keyboard.

You need clean air as well. So, make sure to change out the filters on your furnace, air conditioning, and vents. And wear a dust mask while you do it.

You may even consider a portable air filtration unit. In my case, I use a portable antimicrobial air sanitizer in my home office.

Lighting

If your home office has a window that opens, you have two great assets: natural light and ventilation.

Too little desk lighting will cause eye strain. So can glare.

There are regulatory requirements for office space and desk lighting levels. The lighting should be between 200 and 500 lumens (lux/LX).

Stay Clean

Treat your home office the way you would a real office. Keep everything clean. Sanitize and disinfect your work station. And wash your hands often.

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Written by Henry Skjerven
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Mr. Skjerven has consulted professionally for over 27 years, with extensive Canadian experience, literally from coast to coast but with a home base in Western Canada. His experience ranges from marketing, adult education, and heavy transportation (rail) to municipal public works, fleet and transportation, oil and gas construction in the tar sands, emergency response (Fire and Ambulance), Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Security, as well as human resources and software systems, including enterprise style projects.

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