Mon, 29 Jun 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has seen the workplace change beyond recognition since the start of 2020. However the duties upon an employer from a health and safety perspective remain the same, even if our understanding of what the workplace is has altered.
Current guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home.
With so many people currently working from home, it is important to remember that employers retain the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as they did when they were working in the office.
The problem is that the average home is not designed to be a workplace.
One of the big areas of concern for the HSE is where workers use display screen equipment (DSE) continuously for more than an hour daily, as part of their normal work.
While employers do not need to carry out home workstation risk assessments for temporary home workers, the HSE website provides for a self-assessment form for employees, which is worth sharing and encouraging employees to complete as part of the company’s health and safety policies and as evidence of compliance.
The HSE states that employers should look to encourage their workers to break up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks and recommends at least five minutes every hour.
Workers should avoid awkward static postures by regularly changing position and don’t sit (or lay) for the entire day and get up, move or do stretching exercises.
Changing focus or blinking will also help avoid eye fatigue.
It isn’t just the physical health of workers that employers need to consider, as the mental wellbeing of people working from home is also likely to be under significant strain.
Home working can still cause work-related stress and being away from the office, without the same level of supervision, can make it difficult for workers to obtain the necessary support.
The HSE recommends that procedures are in place to keep in contact with home workers so any signs of stress can be recognised as early as possible and encourages there to be an emergency point of contact for home workers so they can reach out for help if needed.
Regular video contact can help engage employees and help them feel like a valued member of the team.
Some of the measures caused by the coronavirus lockdown are likely to be temporary and, while employers should be mindful of their health and safety obligations during the coronavirus lockdown, business should also look to prepare for a longer-lasting culture shift towards home working.
Now is the time for businesses to take a pro-active approach and to review their health and safety policies, ensure they possess a ‘working from home’ policy and, where they do, to update and amend this, in order better prepare them for the post-lockdown ‘workplace’.
If you have any questions about your health and safety policies, procedures or responsibilities please do contact me directly.
Author’s details:Michelle Di Gioia
Partner – Dispute Resolution - T: (01635) 508141