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Telework: Preventing health, safety and ergonomics issues

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Employee health and safety is a major concern for all businesses. However, teleworking parameters are still not set in stone.

Organizations must have a firm grasp of the issues surrounding this relatively new practice and adapt their policies to include the risks associated with teleworking.

The Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety sets out certain basic employer (see section 51 of the Act) and employee (see section 49 of the Act) rights and obligations.

For example, employers must ensure employee protection and use the tools and methods required to identify and control risks. They must also inform their employees of any such risks.

Employees, on the other hand, must adhere to the prevention policies put in place by their employer and take the necessary measures to protect their health and ensure their safety.

Those general measures must be adapted and personalized according to the work environment and nature. The pandemic has sped up the telework practice and we need answers to some questions in order to meet the applicable legal obligations.

Why it’s important to have a telework management policy

A management policy must include all health and safety issues. It is key to defining the requirements of teleworking and helping implement prevention solutions.

All aspects of physical health and integrity must be addressed, including workplace set-ups and ergonomics.


An employee’s home office must meet the same health and safety standards as the employer’s offices. Work furniture and equipment used must be of good quality and meet recognized standards in order to avoid musculoskeletal issues or accidents. Make sure to adjust the lighting so the computer screen does not reflect light.
You can learn more about the measures to follow by visiting the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and adapt them to your own work context.

Reporting incidents

Employees who work from home must report any discomfort or incident to their employer so the latter can offer a solution before things get worse. As an entrepreneur, you must make sure your employees have read and understood your policy and know who to turn to if there is a potential source of risk.

Psychosocial risks

Organizations must also take into account risk factors that could affect employee mental health, including isolation and issues such as keeping staff engaged and taking care of their employer brand.

At home, teleworkers are often by themselves. Interactions with co-workers rarely happen outside virtual meetings. They may feel like they’re losing their bearings or missing the bigger picture, which makes it harder to understand what’s going on even within their own team.

Employers must have the means—technological or other—to overcome those obstacles, promote interactions and detect distress signals, as applicable. For example, team leads should have access to the tools enabling them to detect psychological disorders in employees and to regularly keep in touch with them.

Methods of evaluation and risk control

In order to support teleworking and follow up on health and safety risks, entrepreneurs can put in place the measures adapted to their situation:

  • Have a self-evaluation form
  • Produce health and wellness surveys
  • Facilitate access for supervisors and managers
  • Give remote employees access to helpful resources (health and safety advisor, ergonomics advisor, psychological support consultation, etc.)
  • Include material resources or facilitate access to these resources (gyms, equipment, online resources)

There are still many elements that need to be clarified when it comes to teleworking and its risks. Current policies which were developed at a time when teleworking was still new, or barely existed, are being reviewed and adapted to better help employers and employees implement this new reality. The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) is also reviewing how it can intervene in this particular context.

We encourage entrepreneurs to examine their own situation and be proactive in taking prevention measures for their employees and business.

This article was a joint collaboration with Mathieu Couture from MEDIAL.

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