Working from home: some health and safety need-to-knows
31 March 2020 -
At work, there are processes, supplies, and health and safety precautions. But at home, this isn’t necessarily the case!
Health and safety measures aren’t usually a priority at home – we tend to focus on the character and design of our homes, not how our favourite rug may be a tripping hazard. But with many of us now working around housemates, partners, children or pets, it’s vital that we think about – and managers offer advice about – making your homeworking space as safe as possible.
Here are some top-level watchwords when working from home.
DUTY OF CARE
As a manager, it is part of your duty of care to check in with your team and make sure their working environment is suitable for their role, and assist where you can.
On the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) site, they say that in order to best help homeworkers, you should ask yourself the following questions: how will you keep in touch with them? What work will they be doing (and for how long)? Can it be done safely? Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them? According to Ireland's Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the parameters of remote duty of care include: ensuring that the work activity and the temporary workspace are suitable for remote working; that the employee makes the employer aware of any potential risks of working from home; and that the employee has all tools and equipment needed to do their job satisfactorily from home.
We’ve all seen a fair few images online of people using ironing boards and other makeshift items as desks – but while they may seem to offer a short-term solution, they are not a viable longer-term solution! It is important that we have a comfortable working area including a chair that supports your back properly; even using a laptop on a lap tray on the sofa is better than standing by your ironing board. (Especially if that ironing board gives way, breaks your laptop, and scrapes your shins on the way down!)
Even if you don’t have enough room or supplies to create a home office, sitting at the dining room table will be better for your posture. HSE has further desk set-up advice here.
LINES OF COMMUNICATION
It’s vital that all employees know their key point of contact right now. If your phone or computer breaks, your internet stops connecting, or you’re unable to download useful tools on your work laptop, you need to know who to get in touch with – and quickly! More than ever when replacements aren’t readily available and fixes won’t be quick or easy, it’s important to take care of your electronic equipment. That means not letting your laptop overheat, shutting it down completely instead of leaving it on standby, and making sure your phone doesn’t get dropped or trodden on.
WATCH OUT FOR SIGNS OF STRESS
While business continuity is at the forefront of many leaders’ minds, it is equally important to ensure that the new remote working situation doesn’t negatively impact your employees. When assessing the suitability of their homeworking environment, pay special attention to making sure their working conditions do not cause unnecessary stress and check in with them to see how they're doing. Staying in touch will help to make sure they don't feel feel cut off or isolated from their team and friends at work. HSE has more guidance on watching out for stress signs here.
During the lockdown the public is being encouraged to only go to A&E if it is an emergency and absolutely cannot be treated at home. Safety Training Awards (STA) conducted a webinar recently to teach basic first aid tips to anyone working at home. STA’s key advice is to learn CPR and the warning signs of choking as well as how to dress minor wounds. If possible, try and purchase necessary supplies; especially when working around children, you need to be prepared.
It’s also worth noting that in your house there are more opportunities for burns and scalds than at work – such as cooking appliances and pipes, cleaning supplies,and electrical sockets that may not be safety-checked.
STA’s top first-aid tips are:
- For a burn, run the injury under cold water for at least 20 minutes before covering in sterile dressing that won’t stick to the burn, like cling film.
- If someone is choking, first try and encourage the casualty to cough. If that doesn’t work then support them with one arm, give them five back blows between their shoulder blades. If this doesn’t clear the blockage, stand behind them and do five abdominal thrusts.
- For minor bleeds, clean and dry the wound before dressing with a plaster.
- For major bleeds, apply direct pressure to the wound for ten minutes; if this stems the blood, dress and cover the wound with sterile dressing and continue to apply pressure.
Once you’re happy with your home set-up, why not check out our useful, motivating guides on the CMI Knowledge Bank to get your day in full flow?