The rise of varied work environments for employees continues to develop, but when work is carried out away from typical business premises, or at nonstandard hours of day, it can present a greater challenge to employers.
Hybrid and Remote Working
Hybrid working, with employees electing to work both from home and the office, has become more widely accepted.
A recent survey conducted by Embryo revealed that more than 30% of full-time UK employees are now hybrid workers.
Under health and safety regulation, an employer’s responsibility for their staff safety doesn’t change, regardless of where or when their staff work.
Traditionally, staff working on-site and “in-view” has meant the safety of the working environment can be directly managed, maintained and monitored. However, for staff working alone or remotely, controlling safety risks can prove difficult.
These risks for such staff may include:
- Workstation, e.g. homeworkers — slip trip hazards of trailing cables, files piled on floor.
- Is the equipment they are using, whether belonging to the company or their own being used safely and correctly, e.g. own workstations — faulty electrical devices, overloading extension leads; drivers — lack of vehicle maintenance, basic checks.
- Their mental and physical safety, i.e.:
- personal safety, e.g. increased vulnerability of night shift workers,
- their health and wellbeing, e.g. feelings of isolation/disconnection from others.
Creating a Safe Working Environment
While the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had previously advised that workstation assessments were not needed for those working temporarily from home, this has now changed. For any homeworkers using display screen equipment (DSE), whether full-time or part-time, employers must ensure that a DSE assessment is completed by homeworkers, and any required actions are taken.
It is also good practice to ensure that a “homeworking” Health & Safety assessment is completed, helping safeguard employers from a potential future claim.
Vehicles as the Main Workplace
It has been estimated that up to a third of all road traffic accidents involve somebody who is driving for work at the time.1
As winter weather increases potential hazards while driving, employers need to ensure that any employee driving for work is aware of how to keep themselves and others safe on the roads.
You will find comprehensive guidance on driving risk at the HSE website.
Personal Safety and Security
Along with increased risk of more hazardous driving, darker evenings during winter may increase anxiety about personal safety when going to and from work, particularly so for night workers.
It is advisable, especially for lone workers, to carry out a risk assessment for these staff and consider a list of factors when carrying out the assessment. Once the risks have been assessed, develop a safe working method statement. This should include as much relevant information as possible for both the lone worker and their supervisor.
The Safe Working Method Statement should link into the company health and safety policy and reflect all the potential types of lone working roles within the company.
For those with staff working shifts you may also find the HSE’s Managing Shiftwork useful.
Staff Health and Wellbeing
Remote workers can be at additional risk of potential stress due to them working in isolation. For the most part they are disconnected from their working colleagues — and this can have a negative effect on their mental health.
Another danger to their well-being is “digital burnout,” arising from many home and remote workers feeling the need to be continually connected and available to work. Exposure to work screens for too long can result in tiredness, anxiety, a loss of interest in their job, depression and loss of sleep.
There is also increasing concern about the effect of productivity paranoia on the health of off-site workers who feel, due to their lack of visibility, their productivity is being questioned by employers. Their response to this can again be to put in extra hours, or working through illness, adding further pressure on an already anxious employee.
Reassuring them this is not the case, encouraging them to take regular breaks and adhere to proper working hours can help avoid both digital burnout and productivity paranoia.
By ensuring measures are put in place for managing the health and wellbeing of remote staff, including the people who are responsible for them, i.e. their line managers and supervisors’ staff. are more likely to feel supported and cared for by their employer.
For more information on any of the issues discussed, or information about our Arch Risk Management service, please speak to your local Arch branch.
Source: Arch Risk Management