Author: Mark Soanes
The health and safety Executive have today issued new advice on what organisations need to have in place for their staff when working from home. There is a particular focus on the need for employees to undertake their own Display Screen Equipment (DSE) risk assessment.
Based on the latest Government advice, the HSE recommend an action plan is:
1. Support Those Who Self-Isolate or Work at Home
Homeworkers have a legal right to information, instruction, training and supervision and to suitable safeguards. Often this will mean a simple DSE risk assessment (which employees themselves can carry out). But, if you provide tools, especially power tools, or chemicals which the worker uses at home, the same standard of protection is expected as if this work were carried out on your own premises.
Bear in mind that you can only be responsible for what is under your control. You have no right of entry to an employee’s home, and they are responsible for its state of repair, housekeeping, etc. So, while you are responsible for employees at work, there is less to worry about when employees work at home than when they are on your premises.
2. Be Systematic about Staying in Touch
Self-isolation can feel like solitary confinement, so stay in touch with anyone who is off-sick, using email, messaging or phone. Agree with the employee when you will contact them again; that way, each contact is expected and managers/supervisors cannot be accused of harassment because the employee is already expecting the call. Have a back-up way of contacting people: e.g. home phone number as well as work mobile.
3. Protect those Who are Still at Work
Here there is clear guidance:
- Encourage employees to work at home, wherever possible.
- Minimise meetings and other employee gatherings.
- Only essential visitors should come to the workplace.
- If someone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they should be sent home and stay at home.
- Remind employees to frequently wash their hands for at least 20 seconds and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues.
- Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.
Think carefully about the need for travel, both within and outside the UK. If you can stay in touch with clients and contacts by phone, email, messaging or video-call, it has never made more sense to do so.