Protecting Homeworkers’ Health and Safety

Wed, 23 Sep 2020 13:38

Protecting Homeworkers’ Health and Safety Image

The recent HSE update to their guidance on protecting homeworkers has become even more pertinent following the new Government directive to work from home where possible.

Just as many workers were returning to their offices, albeit in a very different capacity to which they left them, the trend is now set to reverse with numbers working from home likely to rise again.

The updated guidance reiterates the need for employers to demonstrate the same duty of care towards employees who work from home as they do for on-site staff.

HSE guidance and how training can help

The importance of adhering to the guidelines is twofold:

  • To look after your employees and ensure their wellbeing, both physical and mental
  • To ensure that your business is compliant and operating within the guidelines, negating the possibility of any future accusations of not following the correct procedures which could leave the company open to financial penalties.

In order to help keep your employees safe and your business compliant, eLearning can help employers ensure that they are providing the best possible level of care to the health and safety needs of their employees.

Employees can take the training at home and as they are likely to be in their current working environment they can make any changes necessary to improve their safety quickly and easily.

eLearning can cover the key areas contained within the HSE guidelines and is ideally suited to ensuring that you and your employees are working in a safe environment.

The guidelines refer specifically to DSE (Display Screen Equipment), Mental Health and Stress and state that:

As an employer when someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, you should consider:

  • 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 measures in place to protect them?

This is as important now as it was when employees first started to work from home on a widespread scale, following restrictions imposed in March.

It could be argued that it is actually even more important as time has progressed, with feelings of isolation likely to have grown the longer home working has gone on.

To say that everybody who has switched to working from home has suffered mentally isn't true; studies have shown that a high number of people have flourished, citing increased flexibility, lack of commute and reduced distractions as just some of the reasons for a reduction in stress and improvement in overall mental health.

DSE and working from home

One of the key things to consider about the home office space is DSE. We all know that incorrectly set up screens can cause musculoskeletal issues and other health problems and that this has to be a core area of concern for employers moving towards homeworking; but how do employers and employees alike mitigate this risk?

The answer is with targeted training that can be delivered at home, namely eLearning. Getting your employees to undergo training specifically focused on DSE will help to achieve the goals of ensuring their safety and demonstrating you taking responsibility as an employer.

Training should include points such as:

  • How to set up DSE correctly to maximise safety
  • Exercises to minimise the risks of injury
  • Importance of regular breaks
  • Relevant legislation

To discover more about successfully training your employees to set up their DSE safely, we have a number of options available.

Stress

The HSE guidance explicitly mentions the greater need for employers to ensure the mental health of their homeworking staff is protected.

Studies have shown that a number of people have seen improvements to their mental health since working from home, citing increased flexibility, lack of commute and reduced distractions as just some of the reasons for a reduction in stress.

However, for a great many others, feelings of isolation, loneliness and detachment from the workplace has led to a rise in stress and a deterioration in mental health.

This is where managers have had to step up and will continue to need to do so. Increased communication from managers is vital to help with feelings of isolation, as is the need to be able to recognise early warning signs and symptoms of stress in employees.

We have a set of resources specifically designed to help employees recognise their own signs of stress and to help manage it, along with resources for managers to learn how to manage stress in their team.

Home Working Risk Assessments

Many of the risks inherent to homeworking are the same as working in the office: setting up display screen equipment correctly, minimising slips and trips and taking extra precautions if lone working for example.

Home working environments should have had a thorough risk assessment carried out at the outset. Even if this was the case, now is a good time to be re-visiting it to ensure that the working environment remains safe.

We created a Home Working Risk Assessment for precisely this purpose and provides a comprehensive tool for ensuring the safety if your employees.

It focuses on three core areas: your home workspace, working design and taking care of yourself. From looking after your mental health all the way to electrical safety, no homeworking topic is neglected. There is also an extra section for people with line management responsibilities.

Summary

The recent updates to the HSE guidelines about protecting home workers are a timely reminder that we cannot be complacent about the health and safety of homeworkers.

Coupled with the new advice from the government regarding working from home where possible, now is the perfect opportunity to refresh your employees training to maximise their safety.

Our solutions provide a high quality, cost effective solution to your training needs in order to mitigate risk and keep your employees safe.

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