Over the last few years, many of us have swapped the office for our homes. We’ve switched up the time it would have taken us to commute on a packed-out train for a morning walk with the dog, swapped grabbing too many takeaway lattes for cups of coffee in our favourite mugs, and exchanged the constant buzz of the office for the peace of our own WFH set-up.
However, just because an employee is working from home doesn’t mean you don’t have any responsibility for their health and safety. As remote and hybrid working continue to shape the modern workplace, it remains crucial for us to prioritise our employees’ physical and mental wellbeing, even when they’re working from home.
Remote working can work really well for both employees and employers – but only if it’s done right. At Osteopaths For Industry (OFI), we understand the importance of maintaining a safe, healthy working environment for those who work from home. In this blog post, we’ll provide you with valuable insights and guidance on managing the health and safety of remote workers, covering risk assessments, stress and mental health support, safe computer usage, and how you can create a secure working environment.
Your Health and Safety Responsibilities for Remote Workers
As an employer, your responsibility for the health and safety of your remote workers should be no different to your duty of care for your on-site workers. Whether you’re considering employees who work from home all the time to those who have a hybrid working arrangement, it’s crucial to look out for their health and well-being. Key considerations for your risk assessment of home workers include stress and poor mental health, safe equipment usage, and their working environment. Open communication with your remote-working staff is essential to ensure that working from home suits everyone involved.
Risks to consider in the risk assessment for home workers:
- Stress and poor mental health
- Safe usage of equipment like computers and laptops
- The suitability and safety of the working environment
DID YOU KNOW?
According to the Office for National Statistics, from September 2022 to January 2023, 16% of adults reported working entirely from home, whilst 28% indicated a hybrid working arrangement. London had the highest percentage of hybrid workers, with 4 in 10 reporting that they worked both from home and their workplace.₁
The Importance of Risk Assessments
Conducting a comprehensive risk assessment for home workers is crucial to ensure their health and safety. While physical visits to their homes are usually unnecessary, you must ensure they have a healthy and safe work environment. The key factors you should consider when conducting this type of risk assessment include what communication methods they’re using to connect with colleagues, the type and duration of the work they’re doing day-to-day, safety protocols, and the implementation of control measures.
But how do you carry out this type of risk assessment?
Practical ways to conduct risk assessments for home workers:
- Utilise questionnaires or self-assessment tools.
- Maintain regular communication via phone or video calls.
- Implement control measures to protect home workers.
Special considerations for certain situations:
- Accommodating workers with disabilities.
- Addressing significant hazards like tools or chemicals.
Supporting Your Remote Workers’ Mental Health
Protecting remote workers from stress and mental health issues is of the utmost importance. Remote workers may face similar challenges to their on-site counterparts but can also experience increased feelings of isolation and disconnection as a result of working from home. However, as an employer, there are practical steps you can take to manage and support the mental wellbeing of your remote workforce. These include:
Strategies to manage stress and mental health for home workers:
- Engaging in open conversations about stress and mental health.
- Involving workers in stress risk assessments.
- Keeping workers updated and involved in organisational matters.
- Scheduling regular keep-in-touch meetings or calls.
- Informing home workers about available occupational support.
- Individualising support for workers with specific needs.
Encouraging work-life balance for home workers:
- Promoting regular breaks and encouraging the use of annual leave.
- Preventing overworking and setting realistic deadlines.
- Supporting workers in seeking help when needed.
Making Sure Remote Workers are Using Their Computer/Laptop Safely
Working with computers and laptops (display screen equipment or DSE) at home can pose health and safety risks that can spiral into much more serious issues, so it should never be overlooked. Ensuring proper ergonomics and equipment safety is essential to protect remote workers’ musculoskeletal health.
How can you go about this?
Steps to promote safe usage of computers and laptops at home:
- Determine if DSE regulations apply to your workers.
- Conduct DSE assessments for individual workers.
- Encourage comfortable and sustainable postures.
- Ensure safe and suitable equipment usage.
- Balance the level of risk against necessary control measures.
For simple, easy to remember DSE guidance₂ you can promote amongst remote working employees and office-based staff, think COMPUTER:
Chair: Adjust your chair and sit with good posture, making sure you’ve got proper lumbar support.
Optimal Position: Check that your screen is directly in front of you, at eye level.
Micro Breaks: Rest your eyes by looking away from the screen every 20 minutes.
Placement: Think about the layout of your workspace – organise your desk and keep it clutter-free, with frequently-used items within easy reach.
Utilise ergonomic keyboards, mice, and other accessories to ensure musculoskeletal support and comfort.
Take Regular Breaks: Take breaks to move around and prevent discomfort caused by prolonged sitting.
Exercise: Stretch and exercise regularly to keep your musculoskeletal system comfortable.
Relax: If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, your muscles can tense up, causing pain. Make a conscious effort to relax your mind and body whilst sat at your desk in order to stay pain-free.
How can we help with DSE?
We can provide the tools you need to improve Display Screen Equipment (DSE) practice in your workplace. With OFI, you can purchase the following:
For more information about the range of services we can offer you, please visit our home page.
Creating a Comfortable Working Environment
Remote workers should have a safe place to work, free from potential hazards. While you are responsible for the electrical equipment provided, you should also educate workers about general safety practices and emergency procedures.
- Advise workers on visually checking electrical equipment.
- Raise awareness about hazards, e.g., overloaded extension cables.
- Provide guidance on minimising slips, trips, and obstructions.
- Establish emergency procedures and contact protocols.
- Consider contingency plans for situations where contact is lost.
Reporting accidents for home workers:
- Understand when incidents at home should be reported.
- Determine reportable incidents under RIDDOR regulations.
- Fulfil your responsibilities under RIDDOR for home workers.
For more RIDDOR guidance, click here.
Prioritising the health and safety of remote workers is paramount in today’s evolving work landscape. By conducting thorough risk assessments, addressing stress and mental health concerns, promoting safe computer usage, and creating a secure working environment, employers can support their remote workforce’s musculoskeletal wellbeing and overall health. Embrace these practices and cultivate a culture of wellbeing to ensure a productive and healthy remote working experience.
1. “Managing home workers: a guide for employers,” Health and Safety Executive (HSE), www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/workers/home.htm
2. “Health and Safety Executive: Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR),” Health and Safety Executive (HSE), www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/index.htm
3. BBC News, “Working from home brings new aches and pains for UK workers,” BBC News, www.bbc.com/news/business-54911598
4. “Labour Force Survey, Homeworking in the UK: 2020,” Office for National Statistics, www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/homeworkinguk/2020.
5. “Characteristics of Homeworkers, Great Britain: September 2022 to January 2023”, Office for National Statistics, www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/characteristicsofhomeworkersgreatbritain/september2022tojanuary2023
6. Manual Handling Training, Osteopaths For Industry, www.ofi.co.uk/manual-handling-training/
7. People Moving and Handling Training, Osteopaths For Industry, www.ofi.co.uk/people-moving-handling-training/
8. Display Screen Equipment, Osteopaths For Industry, www.ofi.co.uk/display-screen-equipment/
9. Ergonomic Training and Ergonomic Assessments, Osteopaths For Industry, www.ofi.co.uk/ergonomic-training-assessment/
10. DSE Assessor Training, Osteopaths For Industry, www.ofi.co.uk/display-screen-equipment/dse-assessor-training/
11. Online Employee DSE Assessments, Osteopaths For Industry, www.ofi.co.uk/display-screen-equipment/online-dse-assessment/
12. Workstation Assessment for Homeworkers, Osteopaths For Industry, www.ofi.co.uk/display-screen-equipment/workstation-assessment-for-homeworkers/
13. On-Site DSE Workstation Assessments & Consultancy, Osteopaths For Industry, www.ofi.co.uk/display-screen-equipment/dse-workstation-training-assessment-consultancy/
14. “RIDDOR – Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013”, Health and Safety Executive (HSE), www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/
15. “Ultimate Guide to Looking After Your Musculoskeletal Health When Working in a Seated Role”, Thrive4Life, www.thrive4life.co.uk/blog/seated-worker-ultimate-guide/