Home Working Guidance v3

Contents:

 

1. Home Working Key Risks 

2. Lone Working 

3. Mental Health 

4. Display Screen Equipment (DSE) 

5. Operational Guidelines 

 

1        Home Working Key Risks

 

The position of the Scottish Government is that homeworking should remain the default position and companies should plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively.

 

In general terms, employers have the same H&S responsibilities for home workers as for any other employees. For example, in normal circumstances, processes and procedures would be expected for:

 

  • Keeping in touch / communicating / monitoring and supervision
  • Ensuring a safe and appropriate working environment
  • Providing or ensuring suitable and compliant equipment (e.g. computer set-up, desk, chair, etc.)
  • Control over work activities and duration
  • Lone working
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Equality Considerations

 

Despite the HSE having a more “relaxed” approach to temporary homeworkers (workers that abruptly passed to work from home when the lockdown was imposed), the Scottish Government is now stating that this practice should become the norm (under the current COVID-19 framework for decision making). Hence, the Scottish Government is asking employers to conduct a homeworking risk assessment for the employees working from home. In addition, SG has published a checklist to help employers to fulfil their responsibilities while their staff is working from home, downloadable from the Homeworking Guidance.

 

 

 

Therefore, the message has to be that reasonable steps should be taken to protect homeworkers in the current climate, taking account of the tools available.

 

The guidance below may assist in the undertaking of risk assessments and the provision of safe working information to employees. This is offered for the key risks over which employers have some control at this time:

 

• Lone Working

• Mental Health

• DSE

• Operational Considerations

 

 

 

 

2        Lone Working

 

By virtue of being ‘alone’ with no employee support network (or anyone to help if things go wrong), there will generally be an increased level of risk for lone workers. However, in normal circumstances this is based on the fact that lone workers may be required to travel, visit sites, deal with normal workloads, etc.

 

Therefore, the key lone working risks at the present time include mental health issues, social isolation and loneliness, and DSE use (see below) but employers can also help with more general lone working risk management through:

 

  • Regular communication and supervision
  • Clear direction, management and support over work expected and workloads
  • Provision of training in the work required and any technology (e.g. video conferencing)
  • Ensuring employees are competent to deal with the work and the working conditions
  • Information on HR issues and how to raise concerns
  • Information on general homeworking H&S
  • Introducing opportunities for the staff to engage with their colleagues on an informal basis

 

Useful Links:

 

 

3        Mental Health

 

As the effects of social isolation, fears and anxiety over the COVID-19 outbreak and uncertainty over the country’s (and individuals’) future becomes more apparent, mental health management is most likely the most important single issue affecting home workers (as well as non-working employees).

 

This comes on the back of an already high work-related stress problem across the UK and employers have a legal duty to take action where work is causing or exacerbating mental health issues. In the current climate it may, of course, be difficult to differentiate between ‘work related’ and ‘COVID-19 related’ stresses but it would certainly be good practice for employers to take all reasonable steps to assist employees through this difficult time. Some of the normal options open to employers are quite clearly not currently available (such as face to face communications, monitoring of employees’ daily wellbeing, etc.), however support can still be offered through:

 

  • The points given for general lone working risks:
    • Regular communication and supervision
    • Clear direction, management and support over work expected and workloads
    • Provision of training in the work required and any technology (e.g. video conferencing)
    • Ensuring employees are competent to deal with the work and the working conditions
    • Information on HR issues and how to raise concerns
    • Information on general homeworking H&S
    • Introducing opportunities for the staff to engage with their colleagues on an informal basis
  • Provision of an emergency point of contact for employees who may need a mental outlet
  • Information on employee counselling services
  • Stress risk assessments
  • Training for employees on how to identify the signs of stress / mental health issues in colleagues and how to report these

 

The HSE has developed a toolkit to tackle work-related stress which gives further advice and support on a range of stress related issues:

 

 

 

The NHS has also started the campaign “Every Mind Matters” to help people cope with the anxiety produced by the COVID-19 outbreak and the challenges of homeworking, home-schooling and loneliness. Similar advice can be found in the website from Healthier Scotland in their campaign “Clear Your Head”.

 

Useful Links:

 

 

 

4        Display Screen Equipment (DSE)

 

It is worth noting that the HSE states that “there is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily”. Therefore, in such situations employers would not be expected to take any special precautions for DSE use. However, for those people working at home on a long-term basis, a proper DSE risk assessment and the provision of control measures would be required.

 

In order to keep the workstation safety, employers must:

  • do a DSE workstation assessment
  • reduce risks, including making sure workers take breaks
  • provide an eye test if a worker asks for one
  • provide training and information for workers

 

The HSE gives some advice on how to set up a temporary workstation in this video.

Also, the following graphic gives a visual representation of the ideal set-up:

 

Workstation ergonomics

 

Some simple steps all DSE users can take to reduce the risks also include:

 

  • breaking up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) or changes in activity
  • avoiding awkward, static postures by regularly changing position
  • getting up and moving or doing stretching exercises
  • avoiding eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time

The HSE has provided advice and a checklist for employees to complete their own basic assessment at home: workstation checklist. These assessments could then be submitted to senior management as a demonstration that risk assessing has been carried out so far as is reasonably practicable under the current circumstances.

 

Useful Links:

 

 

If you require any assistance with risk assessing or developing safe working procedures during this challenging time please do not hesitate to contact ACS via the helpline number or using the details below. Good luck and work safely.

 

The ACS Team

 

0141 427 5171

 

info@acsrisk.com

training@acsrisk.com