Updated: January 2021
The Covid-19/ Coronavirus has utterly changed the society in which we live. In addition to the real human cost, we are seeing businesses close every day, restrictions on our movement and the advice to practice social distancing (with other countries implementing far more stringent measures).
All of this has lead to an increase in remote working. Employee health and safety isn't suspended just because most of the workforce is now at home. Instead of managing 2-3 offices or sites, it's dozens, hundreds or even thousands.
Wondering where to start?
In order to help you acclimatise, we have created this short guide to help you adapt your health and safety procedures to suit this new situation.
Here, we will cover things to consider as your employees shift to a 'Working from Home' structure.
We hope you find the guide informative, will be constantly updating this piece as news of new lockdowns, restrictions and advice becomes available.
Best of luck of and stay safe!
The Engage EHS Team
According to the Health & Safety Authority (Ireland), employees need to be made aware of 'any specific risks regarding working from home'.
A good way of doing this is through a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment. Your DSE assessment should cover things such as:
- Workstation Layout
- Fire Safety
- Slips, Trips and Falls
- Mental Health/ Wellbeing
- Personal Health and Hygiene
Software such as the Engage EHS Workstation Module will even let you easily assign DSE assessments and track their completion across your team.
Electrical fires are among the most common causes for fires in the UK. With your employees working from home, there is likely to be an increase in the amount of appliances being used.
It is a good idea to have a fire safety risk assessment in place for your employees to apply to their own situations.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Ensure that smoke alarms are functional
- Don't overload sockets
- What is the evacuation route in case of fire?
- Is equipment switched off when not in use?
Mental health and wellness is extremely important for employees working from home. This is especially true during these times of external stress and anxiety when we are expected to practice social distancing.
Employees may feel isolated and disconnected while working from home. It's a good idea to keep in daily contact, ideally through calls or video conference.
H&S professionals should also be able to recognise signs of stress in their employees.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Encourage a routine among your employees
- Encourage physical activity (within suggested guidelines)
- Show flexibility towards employees during this time. People may be at home with housemates, children, parents etc.
As of early January 2021, all non-essential premises must now close in England and mainland Scotland. Northern Ireland and Wales entered lockdown in December 2020. According to Gov.uk, people should minimise the amount of time speant outside the home. Many retail outlets deemed non-essential have also been ordered to close.
Ireland has been at Level 5 on their 'Framework for Restrictive Measures' nationally since 31st of December 2020. All non-essential retail outlets have been told to close and people can only exercise within a 5 KM radius of their homes. Schools have been ordered to close until at least early February.
All staff should be encouraged to work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so.
For essential travel:
- Avoid public transport if possible (be aware that much public transport will be working at extremely reduced capacity)
- Wear a face covering (this is the law when travelling on public transport in England)
- Maintain a distance of 2 metres from others
- Wash your hands as soon as you get home
It is almost inevitable that some employees will contract COVID-19/ Coronavirus. H&S professionals should know how to spot signs of the virus.
Indications include (but are not limited to):
- Fever or chills
- Cough (usually dry)
According to the World Health Organisation, people can become infected but don't develop any symptoms or feel unwell. Asymptomatic cases are now major contibutors to virus transmission.
If an employee contracts the virus, they must self-isolate for 14 days from when the symptoms appear.
In the UK, those who stay at home and cannot work are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. Affected employees can also get isolation notes from the NHS.
Here are some useful links so you can keep up with the latest COVID-19/ Coronavirus information:
England: National Lockdown announced as of 6th January 2021
Scotland: Mainland Scotland in lockdown as of 5th January 2021
Wales: All of Wales in lockdown as of 20th December 2020
Northern Ireland: 6 Week lockdown in effect from 26/12/2020