During the coronavirus outbreak, an extraordinary number of workers are working remotely. Small organizations new to managing remote employees are frequently unaware of their legal health & security obligations to homeworkers.
Employers and workers have faced several issues due to the shift to working from home (WFH). Because businesses have been obliged to concentrate on company continuity, the health and safety of remote employees have likely been disregarded.
Homeworkers’ legal duties
Employers have the same legal responsibility to their remote workers.
The main piece of workplace safety law is the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974. The statute makes no difference between employees who work from home and those who work in an office.
“Employers are concerned about the health & safety of homeworkers, as far as is reasonably possible,” according to the Safety policy Regulations 1999.
Employers must do a risk assessment of their workers’ workplaces to comply with the requirements.
Any possible hazards should be identified throughout the evaluation so that the employer may work to eliminate or manage them.
For an accident to occur, RoSPA says that it is more likely to occur in one’s house.
Although most homeworkers will be working from home at a desk with a computer or laptop, health and safety concerns must be addressed in a broader sense. Electrical dangers blocked access, and physical handling should all be included in risk assessments.
How to do a “risk assessment at home.”
Employers should evaluate home employees in the same way they evaluate in-office personnel.
It is not required to do a risk assessment at the employee’s house, particularly during the lockdown.
As part of a firm’s legal responsibility for homeworkers, HR managers might give the employee a full self-assessment form.
Several free templates are accessible online if your firm does not already have one. The HSE’s workplace checklist for display screen equipment (DSE) is a useful place to start.
Employers should do all possible to assist and lead the risk assessment process. The practice might be facilitated over the phone, but a video chat will allow the HR professional to observe the employees’ surroundings and provide helpful feedback.
What should be evaluated?
The employee’s workplace should be well-lit, ventilated, and spacious enough to allow them to work comfortably.
Computer workstations should be comfortable and fatigue-free to operate for long periods. The monitor should be set at a comfortable viewing angle, with the display readable and free of glare or reflection.
Ergonomic accessories (such as keyboards) or office chairs may also help to reduce strain and increase comfort.
In addition, the risk assessment should look for:
- Trip hazards: the area around the workstation should be free of obstacles such as trailing wires.
- Ensure that electrical devices and fittings are in good operating order and free of damage such as frayed wires. Any equipment you provide to the employee should come with instructions on using it safely.
- Overloaded extension cables and dust-clogged heat vents are also potential fire dangers. If required, smoke alarms & fire extinguishers must be supplied. The location of a fire escape must be noted and maintained clear of obstructions.
- Manual handling: If an employee is required to move work equipment, sufficient training is required to reduce the risk of harm.
- First-aid: In the case of an accident, the employee should have ready access to a proper first-aid kit and contact information for whom to contact.
- Training requirements: Manual handling training, for example, will be required if the individual will be required to handle big boxes or move equipment.
- Wrist rests, and eye strain glasses are personal protection equipment (PPE) examples.
- Is there any special equipment required for impaired employees?
- Other concerns unique to the household, such as the case of children
Employee wellbeing and mental health
Additionally, employers have a duty to detect and minimize any potential harm to their workers’ mental health.
Working from home is best for some individuals. The psychological effects of lonely employment might be subtle for others.
Employers have a harder time recognizing stress, anxiety, and mental health issues among remote employees.
In addition to improving productivity, developing active channels of communication and sustaining virtual touches – such as via frequent video conversations and messaging platforms – may help with mental health. Encourage coworkers to keep video or audio channels open to simulate an office setting throughout the day.
Healthy work habits should be communicated to employees. Taking frequent pauses and integrating exercise into work sessions, for example, was determined to be helpful for both physical and mental health by the World Health Organization.
Employer’s Liability (EL) insurance is a kind of liability insurance that protects employers against lawsuits.
All businesses are required under the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 to carry EL insurance to pay the expenses of any compensation handed out to workers in the case of an accident.
The coverage may be invalidated if a company fails to do a thorough risk assessment and an employee is harmed or falls ill.
Make changes to your health and safety policies.
It remains to be seen if COVID-19 will usher in a new WFH era. The topic has now shifted to “going back to work” at writing. Probably, the number of individuals who want or need to work from home regularly will rise.
The logistical effectiveness of the unannounced trial may even persuade some firms to adopt WFH.
To make WFH function, HR teams will need to see remote health and safety management as a continuous effort. Employee buy-in may be improved by taking a more consultative approach.
Risk evaluations should be seen as more than just a paper trail. Individual requirements should be taken into account throughout the process. In the near term, a template risk assessment may suffice. Still, as the dust settles, HR managers should consider a more individualized risk assessment for particular employees as part of their legal responsibility for homeworkers.
It could also be good to update your health and safety policy to better embrace home working.