How is the occupational risk assessed in remote work positions?
In the current legal situation, the provisions do not differentiate the employer’s obligations in terms of occupational risk assessment depending on whether the work is performed remotely or whether it is provided in the workplace. In other words, in both cases, the same provisions of the Act of June 26, 1974 – Labour Code, hereinafter referred to as the Labour Code, should be applied.
Therefore, according to Art. 226 of the Labour Code, the employer:
- assesses and documents the occupational risk related to the performed work and applies the necessary preventive measures to reduce the risk;
- informs employees about the occupational risks associated with the work performed and the principles of protection against threats.
Occupational risk assessment is carried out to ensure the highest possible level of protection of the health and life of employees in the conditions established for a given workplace. In short, the primary purpose of this assessment is the elimination of work-related hazards, and if it is not possible to fully remove these hazards, the occupational risk caused by these hazards should be minimized as much as possible.
Due to the specificity of remote work, the employer should establish the rules and procedure for assessing occupational risk in consultation with the employees (this may be an agreement with the trade union delegation, representation of the staff selected during democratically conducted elections), the employer may also determine the procedure to be followed individually in this case a specific employee.
Although this is not a rule, in most cases, remote work is provided by employees at their place of residence (permanent or temporary stay), therefore the employer, when assessing the occupational risk, should pay special attention to respecting the employee’s right to privacy.
Considering the above-mentioned conditions, the proper way to provide information necessary to fulfill the obligation to assess the occupational risk is to provide it by the employee himself. Moreover, it seems desirable to involve the worker in making the said evaluation at every stage of this activity.
Occupational risk is assessed by an employer with relevant competences in this regard, a company health and safety inspector or a health and safety specialist authorized by the employer or another person commissioned by the employer to perform this task.
With regard to employees who are to perform work in the form of remote work, the employer should provide in particular: training in the field of occupational risk assessment (enabling employees to obtain basic knowledge on the identification of threats, their elimination or reduction), sample risk assessment cards or checklists) and the possibility of ongoing consultations in the event of certain doubts on the part of the employee.
In principle, the assessment of occupational risk in a remote work position does not differ significantly from making such an assessment during stationary work. The scheme of conduct in this subject scope results from the Polish Standard PN-N-18002 „Occupational health and safety management systems. General guidelines for occupational risk assessment ”.
A typical course of occupational risk assessment, also applicable to a remote work position, includes the following activities:
- gathering information necessary to assess occupational risk – in the case of remote work, the information in question will be provided by the employee, it is also advisable to use checklists and other materials provided by the employee;
- hazard identification – based on information provided by the employee. A health and safety inspector or an occupational health and safety specialist may, in the case of remote work, require additional explanations relating to individual elements of the workplace organization;
- occupational risk assessment – this action is carried out on the basis of identified threats. For each of them, the probability of occurrence of the consequences of the hazard negative for the health and life of the employee and the severity of these consequences is determined;
- Determining the acceptability of the risk associated with the identified hazards – at this stage, the ground for determining the acceptability is a prior risk assessment. Determination of the admissibility of occupational risk is carried out using a three-level scale – risk estimated as low or medium is acceptable, while high risk is considered unacceptable.
In accordance with the position expressed by the Central Institute for Labour Protection (CIOP), if the occupational risk in the remote work position is assessed as unacceptable and it is impossible to carry out activities aimed at reducing this risk to an acceptable level, work should be performed at the employer’s premises, o how much the occupational risk will be acceptable at this point.
Article 226 (1) of the Labour Code imposes an obligation on the employer to document the previously performed occupational risk assessment. When documenting the remote work risk assessment, formulas commonly used in a given plant, modified in terms of the specificity of remote work, can be used.
As in the case of other workplaces, there is no single, generally accepted and commonly used form of the occupational risk assessment card with regard to the remote work position. This is due to the fact that the creation of such a universal document would be difficult to implement, mainly due to the large number of branches of the economy and industries in which employees are employed at workplaces, where the variety of conditions in the field of health and life protection is enormous.
To document the occupational risk assessment in a remote work position, a simplified template of the occupational risk assessment card (available e.g. on the website of CIOP) will be sufficient.
Such a card – compared to similar documents prepared for stationary employees – should be modified, i.e. supplemented with a specific type of information.
The occupational risk assessment card at the workplace of an employee performing remote work should additionally contain information on the place of performance of this work. As a consequence of this, the employee’s place of residence (temporary or permanent address) should be introduced, because this is where, in most cases, the employee will work remotely.
If the employer or the person responsible for health and safety in a given company deems it necessary, the card should be supplemented with appropriate attachments, including checklists (filled in by the employee), and even photographic documentation, the subject of which is a remote work position.
In addition to basic information (company name and address as well as employee registration data), the card should contain the name of the job for which the occupational risk assessment is carried out, as well as the personal data of the person who carried out the assessment. Other information that should be included in this document is:
- types of risk factors;
- occupational risk mitigation measures;
- degree of damage (severity of consequences) for each type of risk factor;
- probability of occurrence of a given threat;
- occupational risk determined for a particular hazard – determined on the basis of the assessment of the probability of occurrence associated with the assessment of the severity of the consequences;
- remarks and proposed risk reduction measures. The possibilities of implementing the indicated activities should be confirmed by the employee to whom the occupational risk assessment relates.
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