Protecting your home workers

Protecting Home Workers

As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers. When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider the following:

• How will you keep in touch with them?

• What work activity will they be doing and for how long?

• Can it be done safely?

• Do you need to put control measure in place to protect them?

LONE WORKERS WITHOUT SUPERVISION

There will always be greater risks for lone workers with no direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong. Keep in touch with lone workers, including those working from home, and ensure regular contact to make sure they are healthy and safe. If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. This can affect stress levels and their mental health. Particularly appropriate in today’s climate with COVID-19 forcing a lot of workers to carry out their duties ‘remotely’.

WORKING WITH DISPLAY SCREEN EQUIPMENT

For those people who are working at home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using display screen equipment (DSE) must be controlled. This includes them doing workstation assessments at home. There is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily. So in that situation employers do not need to ask them to carry out home workstation assessments. However, employers should provide workers with advice on completing their own basic assessment at home. There are some simple steps people can take to reduce the risks from display screen 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

Employers should try to meet those needs where possible. For some equipment (eg keyboards, mouse, riser) this could mean allowing workers to take this equipment home. For other larger items (eg ergonomic chairs, height-adjustable desks) encourage workers to try other ways of creating a comfortable working environment (eg supporting cushions). With regular contact with remote workers- you can generally get a feel for remote working situations- particularly if you’re on a video call. You can see their lighting, posture and ask if they are feeling comfortable with their working arrangements.

REVIEW YOUR DSE ARRANGEMENTS

As any period of temporary home working extends, employers should have regular discussions with workers to assess whether additional steps are needed, for example where they report:

  • Aches, pains or discomfort related to their temporary DSE arrangements
  • Adverse effects of working in isolation, on remote IT systems
  • 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 full workstation assessments and provide workers with 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. Calls, video calls, asking them to pop into the office, sending gift baskets etc- these are all really good ideas to keep a positive wellbeing.

KEEP IN TOUCH

Put procedures in place so you can keep in direct contact with home workers so you can recognise signs of stress as early as possible.

It is also important to have an emergency point of contact and to share this so people know how to get help if they need it.

I should hope by this point in time that we have all gone through these steps by now. But nevertheless it’s really important to keep in touch with our remote workers. What’s that saying- out of site, out of mind. We don’t want that with our WFH crew!