Health and safety requirements are just as applicable in these unusual times as ever. This has thrown the spotlight on employer’s responsibilities for providing a safe environment now that homeworking has become the new normal. By law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees which includes any time an employee may be working from home. While employees also have a responsibility to take care of their own health and safety it is unlikely that they will be able to carry out the usual health and safety assessments, these regulations which have been developed for worker’s safety and wellbeing but probably never envisaged today’s situation. IDR have provided some points below to consider with your employees to make sure health and safety requirements are being met.
· Feeling safe
Each employee must feel that the work they are being asked to conduct at home can be carried out safely and that they have the appropriate equipment to complete the job. Employees should be encouraged to have regular contact with their managers to discuss any safety concerns.
· Clear desk policy
It is important, where viable, that employees can identify a segregated area to work in. This could hopefully reduce any distractions which is not only beneficial from a productivity point of view but also for safety. Segregated or not, it is important to maintain a clear desk policy and to keep a clear and organised working space.
Many offices spend a great deal of time ensuring that worker’s sitting position is as good as possible. Elements considered include screen, computer, chair and mouse position among others. Working from home and possibly not having an office chair or desk is likely to increase the risk of poor posture leading to back pain and RSIs. Where possible, try to use a work space and desk which has enough leg room with your feet supported. Avoid awkward sitting positions and consider the height and positioning of the screen, keyboard and mouse. There are many YouTube tutorials available to help you reach the optimum position.
· Phone calls
Leading on from the point above, where possible use a head set for conducting phone calls. This again is to prevent poor posture, which over time causes many people to suffer from neck and back pain.
· Digital eye strain
Researchers have found that people blink less than half as often when they are looking at a screen. The glare and flickering from digital screens can be hard on your eyes. Having your screen an arms length away and making sure your room is brightly lit enough can significantly help reduce digital eye strain.
· Move and stretch
Get up and move regularly to avoid being static for too long. Move around and conduct some stretches or exercises, not only for your physical well being but also for your mental well being.
· Be aware of fire precautions
Make sure you have working fire alarm/smoke detectors and make sure you are regularly checking and maintaining such systems. Some fire services offer free fire alarms, but the eligibility criteria varies and may be disrupted at this time.
· Electrical safety
Ensure the position of your electric cables and electric points are safe, do not overload extension points and take some time to identify any trip hazards. These are easier to maintain in a segregated area.
· General health
The covid-19 pandemic has seen a lot of change in how the NHS is coordinated with some non-essential procedures rescheduled for later in the year. However, a worrying trend is that many people who should attend A&E or doctor’s appointments for normal A&E or doctors services are not doing so. It may be a good idea to remind your teams that usual sickness policies in the workplace still apply and to make sure they are looking after their own health in the usual way.