Employers exposed to work-from-home injury claims, say lawyers

Physiotherapists are reporting more complaints of sore backs and necks due to poorly set up home offices.

Companies preparing to allow staff to work from home on a more permanent basis may be opening themselves up to workplace injury claims, lawyers say.

Zac Lowth, National Operations Manager at Employ Health, a provider of workplace health and risk management solutions, also points to a rise in wrist and arm problems. The bulk of the problems, says Lowth, arise from people working from chairs and desks that can’t be adjusted. Individuals are also feeling more stressed and anxious, which can drive musculoskeletal pain.

“You have to respect the role psychological factors play,” Lowth says.

Adnan Asger Ali, a private physiotherapy practitioner, says his Canberra practice has experienced a ‘marked increase’ in appointments and a spike in new patients.

Asger Ali says in addition to people working at desks that are not ergonomically set-up, many workers are sitting down for much longer than they would in an office. He says people who work from home are losing the incidental movement that comes with getting up to fetch a cup of coffee or tea, going to a meeting, walking to a bus stop or train station or even walking from a car park. “People are losing out on a couple of thousand steps a day,” Asger Ali says.

This might be a bonanza for physiotherapists, but for companies and their insurers, it could all add up to a rise in workplace injury claims.

“The basic principle is the same whether staff are working in the office or at home. Employers have got to ensure the workplace is safe,” says Nicholas Turner, partner and head of employment for Australia at law firm DLA Piper.

“Certainly the concern we would have is there could be an increase in claims for repetitive strain and back issues,” Turner says.

Ref: Sally Patten, BOSS editor

This article has been prepared by WR Law for information purposes only and is not legal advice. Please contact WR Law directly for legal advice regarding your specific circumstances.

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