On Monday (16 April 2020), the Prime Minister told us that those who can work from home, should. If you’re a business owner in a fortunate enough position to be able to send your workforce home, then this short and simple guide is for you.
You need to bear in mind that even if your staff are working from home, all legislation and regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 are still enforceable. Be sure to complete thorough risk assessments for all work tasks and ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of your staff, regardless of where they are working from.
We have put together a list of the top health and safety considerations to assess whilst the team are working from home!
Display screen equipment (DSE) regulations
As an employer, you must assess the health risks posed to staff whilst using display screen equipment, such as laptops, computers, smartphones and tablets. This is applies regardless of whether your staff are working from their own desk or ‘hot-desking’ in the office, working on the move or from home.
Your obligations as an employer are to do a DSE workstation assessment, reduce any associated risks, pay for any eye tests required and ensure your staff are given the correct information, advice and guidance.
Fortunately, we have a little help for those wondering what a DSE assessment looks like. Simply have your workers navigate to the CRAMS free site from their homeworking setup and complete our free interactive DSE assessment and send you the results. This way you can be sure everything is covered, and your staff are working safely, if issues are highlighted, you must take steps to correct this. This may mean supplying a different chair, screen or other equipment. CRAMS users can also take advantage of the inclusive DSE training course, which is normally linked to a DSE risk assessment where the acknowledgement is tracked.
If you don’t have access to this, a good start would be to read through the HSE guidance and to put together an information sheet for staff. You should ensure your staff are fully aware of the risks and best practises for DSE, particularly surrounding comfortable working positions, correct lighting and screen breaks. The NHS has a guide on sitting correctly which may be useful for your staff to reference too.
Protecting Lone Workers
If your staff are home working, it is likely they will be alone during this time, which does pose some new risks requiring consideration. Ideally, your competent person should sit down with each staff member and discuss any challenges which could arise from homeworking.
It would be wise to review staff records to ensure they have no medical issues which could mean being alone for long periods of time is a safeguarding issue. For example, an employee with epilepsy may not feel safe being home alone as if they have a fit, they may be left without help until other members of the household return from work.
Other examples include people with mental health difficulties, who may find long periods alone overwhelming. There are very few conditions which make homeworking impossible and each case would need to be looked at individually and assessed to find the right controls or solution to ensure
everyone is safe.
Only when a thorough risk assessment has been completed should each staff member be signed off.
You can find more guidance on lone working and your obligations in the ‘Protecting lone workers: How to manage the risks of working alone’ guide by the HSE.
One of the difficulties you may face by moving your workforce home is that monitoring their wellbeing is increasingly difficult. Staff will face increased pressure to find childcare and may be facing financial hardship, this in turn can make work situations feel more stressful than usual. There are ways to both monitor and support your staff throughout this period of distance working though which should be considered.
CRAMS users all have access to a stress awareness course, which should be considered as essential for all staff working from home throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Helping staff to identify the signs that they are suffering from stress should enable them to reach out for help sooner. It is also a good idea to have video conferences on a one to one basis at least once a week to discuss workloads, progress and any challenges your team are facing.
If you have concerns for anyone in your team regarding stress or mental health, you should ask them to call their GP to arrange a telephone appointment as soon as possible – bear in mind this may mean giving them time off work.
There are some excellent resources available if you require further information, such as the HSE’s guidance on tackling stress at work, the HSE talking toolkit for managing stress at work or these example risk assessments for work-related stress.
Other health and safety considerations
Many people, will not be set up adequately to work from home and some considerations need to be made regarding what equipment may be required to facilitate this. Many workers are packing up their work computer equipment to take home and this poses some risks relating to manual handling.
CRAMS has a free and interactive MAC (manual handling assessment chart) assessment tool to assist with this. You should complete a MAC assessment for any staff who need to move, carry or handle equipment and ensure staff have been appropriately trained on manual handling techniques before
they move any equipment.
A risk assessment should also be completed for this task which should include you talking to the staff affected to ensure they are fit and well enough to move equipment and where possible, you should arrange support or help for those who may struggle. You should also discuss home set ups with staff and ensure they understand the risks of a poor set up with both DSE related risks and slips, trips and falls. It may be a good idea to have your staff send in photographs of their homeworking setups so
any concerns can be highlighted and addressed quickly.
There is a lot of information available regarding slips, trips and falls available on the HSEs website for employers and employees to help them reduce the risk, as well as a slips, trips and falls checklist which your staff may find useful.
Electrical and fire safety should also be considered – ensuring staff are aware of safe use of computer equipment, including, knowing not to overload power banks and how to correctly and safely set up equipment with consideration for location in relation to water and heat sources and
Remember, any accidents or incidents that happen during working hours, regardless of location, should be reported and recorded on your health and safety system, or in your accident book for older systems. Having a software solution in place will help with this.
Other possible risks
Bear in mind that due to COVIS-19, previously ‘low-risk’ tasks now may need to be reassessed, driving for work for example may have been deemed low-risk as long as all controls were implemented, however, stopping for fuel or travelling into new areas may be ill advised now. Be sure to review all current policies and procedures where you can.
You should also reduce or eradicate the handling of cash where possible, opting for contactless payments only as money can be contaminated by people who may not know they have been infected. This should extend to paper too, minimise printing as much as possible and send as many documents as you can electronically for the same reasons.
Useful CRAMS e-learning courses
CRAMS customers can complete any or all of the below training courses which may help:
- Coronavirus – COVID-19 Training
- Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Training
- Driving Safely Training
- E-safety Training
- Electrical Safety Training
- Fire Safety Training
- Health and Safety: Risk Assessments Training
- Lone Worker Training
- Lone Worker Risk Assessment Training
- Manual Handling Training
- Mental Health Awareness Training
- Slips, trips and Falls Training
- Stress Awareness Training
If you need help enrolling staff to these courses, please contact the helpdesk.
Deploying CRAMS to help manage coronavirus risks
If your company need to get up and running on a cloud health and safety system quickly, to help you manage your home workers, we can help! CRAMS can help you provide your staff with useful training and disseminates important information, policies and risk assessments to keep your team safe throughout this pandemic. The system also tracks acknowledgements and gives you access to a number of tools which will help you keep track of your team, including online accident and incident reporting tools. To find out more, please reach out to the team.