Will 2021 be the Year to Work from Home and what does this mean for Health and Safety ?
Protecting Homeworkers From Risk – What You Can Do ?
Although working from home will probably have less hazards than working in your normal working environment, it is still important to know what the risks are and what to do about them.
It is also important that employers do not become blasé about health and safety in the home environment.
What Risks Should be Considered ?
Some of the most common risks that homeworkers may face are:
- Manual handling
- Working alone
- Work equipment
- Hazardous materials and substances
- Display Screen Equipment (DSE)
- Trips, slips and falls
- Work-related stress
- Electrical equipment – If the employer has provided the electrical equipment then they have a responsibility to ensure that this equipment is fit for purpose and maintained in the correct way
- Other areas of the domestic electrical system such as fuses and sockets are the responsibility of the homeworker
- Ideally, all electrical equipment should be secured to prevent children from accessing or damaging equipment or from damage occurring to the equipment through neglect
As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as you do for any other workers.
When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:
- How will you keep in touch with the employee ?
- What work activity will the employee be doing and for how long ?
- Can the work be done safely ?
- Do you need to put control measures in place to protect the employee ?
Other issues to be considered are those that involve new and expectant mothers working at home, the provision of First Aid and the reporting and recording of accidents.
All employees working from home should expect the same standards extended to them as those provided to ‘regular’ workplace employees. The workspace at home should be adequate for the needs of the employee and a suitable workstation should be available. Suitable work equipment should also be of the same standard as the equipment provided to workplace employees. Computer users should be provided with a good quality ergonomic chair, a standard desk and the relevant IT equipment.
Whilst your employer has a responsibility to keep their homeworkers safe through regular assessments and reviews of home working policies, there are measures that the employee can take themselves to ensure that they are working safely in a safe environment.
Before starting work each day, check the workstation. Make sure it’s set at the right height and comfortable. If for any reason the workstation becomes uncomfortable, highlight the concerns to the employer. Suffering discomfort whilst working could cause long-term health problems in the future.
The employer should also provide a checklist and instructions on what to do if electrical equipment fails. If a fault is noticed with electrical equipment, e.g. a faulty plug. It should be reported to the employer right away. Electrical equipment problems should be treated as a matter of urgency as they pose a high risk.
Working with Display Screen Equipment (DSE)
For employees working from home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using display screen equipment must be controlled.
There are some simple steps that the employee can take to reduce the risks from DSE work:
- Breaking up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks – at least 5 minutes every hour – or changes in activity
- Avoiding awkward, static postures by regularly changing position
- Getting up and moving or doing stretching exercises
- Avoiding eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time
Specialised Display Screen Equipment Needs
For employees with specialized needs, eg. employees with pre existing medical conditions which will be exacerbated with long periods of DSE use, the employer should try to meet these needs where possible.
Some equipment eg. keyboards, mouse, risers, could be allowed to be taken home by the employee. For larger items eg ergonomic chairs or height-adjustable desks, encourage employees to try other ways of creating a comfortable working environment, such as via the use of supporting cushions.
If a period of temporary home working extends, employers should have regular discussions with their employees to assess issues such as the below:
- Aches, pains or discomfort related to their DSE arrangements
- Adverse effects of working in isolation
- Working longer hours without adequate rest and recovery breaks
Where employers decide to make working from home arrangements permanent, they should explain how to carry out a full workstation assessment and provide employees with the appropriate equipment and advice on control measures.
Stress and mental health
Home working can cause work-related stress and affect people’s mental health. Being away from managers and colleagues could make it difficult to get proper support on these issues.
The employer should put procedures in place so they can keep in direct contact with home workers to recognise the signs of stress as early as possible. If contact is poor, employees may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned.
It is also important to have an emergency point of contact and to share this with employees, so people know how to get help if they need it.
If you need assistance with your company’s health and safety, Corporate OHS offers a range of HSE Consultancy services including; risk assessments and hazard identification, HSE management system development, implementation and review, COVID-19 response and management, HSE legal compliance review, accident investigations, crisis management and business continuity.
Corporate OHS also offers the option of a flexible contract and an outsourced monthly retainer, meaning that companies can get immediate access to specialized HSE services without the burden of a permanent cost. For enquiries or to find out more about our services, please visit our website or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org