You don’t have to work permanently from home to be considered a homeworker. It may be that you split your time between home and office, or have the occasional meeting on site. With the unprecedented events of the past year, many organisations have turned to homeworking, and for some it is likely to remain an option for many employees, now and into the future. The latest data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that 32% of the UK workforce were working remotely, compared to 45% working at their normal place of work. It is likely that there is still some time to go before businesses can make a full return to the office, whilst it is possible to work from home and mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.
This acceleration of the acceptance of homeworking leaves employers with an added challenge of ensuring workplace health and safety translates to the whole workforce, whether they are based at home or the office. An employer has a duty of care to staff, wherever they are based, and employees should note they have a responsibility to keep themselves safe too. However while working from home,there is a tendency to feel more secure and comfortable whilst in familiar surroundings, when in fact accidents and injuries can happen anywhere.
“Employees need to have an understanding of how their company manages health and safety as well as any expectations/responsibilities that they must adhere to” says Alex Wilkins, Head of Business Development at iHASCO. “On top of that, it’s a two way process, where good communication is vital to help keep everyone safe and productive.”
“Organisations can support their remote staff with online health and safety for homeworkers training, to help educate their workforce and develop a strong safety culture” says Wilkins, whose company delivers online workplace compliance training to thousands of UK businesses. “With this in mind, we developed the Homeworking Assessment Tool to enable employees to self assess the risks associated with their remote working environment. This allows for employers to identify, prioritise, and quickly resolve any issues that their staff raise.”
The risks of working from home are similar to those in the office, such as slips, trips and falls, manual handling, being a DSE user, fire safety and work-related stress. Both employers and employees need to fully understand how to reduce these risks on a day-to-day basis. It must take into account safety and emergency procedures that may be required.
iHASCO’s ROSPA approved Health & Safety for Homeworkers training course can be completed along with the assessment in just an hour. The assessment takes homeworkers through the key risks to their safety and enables them to highlight any concerns. The interactive element allows employers to address any issues and notify employees when they have responded. This provides a written record of anything raised and helps simplify the process. This robust system is not only convenient but helps businesses remain legally compliant.
Notably, organisations must take reasonable steps to keep their employees safe, and training and assessments are a huge part of this. It helps encourage open conversations between employers and employees, as well as build trust and cooperation when it comes to safety issues.