Risk Assessment while Working from Home

Risk Assessments must be enforced for people working from Home. Certain sectors of South Africa’s essential services are slowly being allowed to return to work in terms of the government’s COVID-19 regulations. Because of this, it is now more important than ever before for industries to reassess risks which may exist in the workplace, including Hazardous Biological Agents (HBA).
The necessity for social distancing to contain the coronavirus pandemic has now resulted in thousands of employees working from home.It is vital that industries re-examine risks to identify the dangers that exist and the consequences of injury or ill health. This also entails risk assessments at employees’ homes. 

Task risk assessments involve:

  • Identification of hazards associated with each principal activity
  • Assessing the level of risk presented by identified hazards
  • Introducing risk control strategies to reduce or eliminate associated risk levels
  • In terms of HBA, the employer or employee must keep a record of the following:
  • The nature and dose of the HBA to which an employee may be exposed and the suspected route of exposure
  • Where the HBA might be present and its likely physical form
  • The nature of the work, process and any reasonable deterioration in, or failure of, control measures
  • The effects of the HBA on an employee
  • The period of exposure

Risk Assessment Components:

There are four main components involved in the control measures for risk assessments. These are: Elimination - physically removing the hazard, Engineering Controls - isolating people from the hazard such as working from home and administrative Controls – changing the way in which people work such as social distancing
  • Limiting the number of people allowed on the premises at any given time
  • Good hygiene (using sanitiser and washing hands with soap and water)
  • PPE – Providing workers with Personal Protective Equipment such as: Face masks, Gloves, Gowns, Safety glasses

Risk Assessments and HBA

In terms of Hazardous Biological Agents (HBA), employers and employees working from home must conduct risk assessments based on all reasonably available information such as:
  • Changes in a process involving an HBA
  • Equipment, methods procedures undertaken when handling, controlling or processing an HBA
  • Classification of the HBA according to its level of risk of infection
  • Recommendations from the manufacturer, supplier or a competent person regarding necessary control measures to protect the health of employees as a result of their work
  • Information about diseases contracted at the workplace directly related to activities at work
  • Potential toxic or allergic effects resulting from the activities at the workplace
  • Knowledge of any disease from which an employee might be suffering and which may be aggravated by conditions at the workplace