Health & safety considerations when working from home

Noel Collins

April 28 2020

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With many employees throughout Ireland now working from home, it’s important that they’re comfortable doing so. It’s also important, from an employer perspective, that you have health & safety aspects of homeworking covered.

Today we’re going to discuss key considerations of homeworking from a health & safety perspective. For the duration of COVID-19, the Health & Safety Authority is allowing staff to temporarily self-assess their work environment; with employers providing IT equipment where reasonable – especially separate keyboards and mouse.

Display screen equipment

Display screen equipment is covered by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work, (General Application) Regulations 2007. Chapter 5 of Part 2 outlines the requirements that must be adhered to.

Under these regulations, it’s usually not sufficient to allow employees to use a software package or other means to assess their own workstations. Instead, it’s your duty to carry out an analysis or risk assessment of an employee’s workstation.

However, as mentioned above, employees are now allowed to arrange their workstation and carry out assessments. If necessary, as an employer, you can provide equipment such as a keyboard and mouse.

How to design a remote work environment

There should be suitable access to the workroom and the employee needs to ensure good standards of housekeeping. That includes adequate lighting, removing trailing leads and not using the floor or high shelves for storage.

Desk and chair

As the employer, you should remind employees to apply similar furniture and equipment standards to their home office as they would in the office. A suitable desk and adjustable chair will normally be needed. These should be ergonomically designed to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal problems. Allowing employees some choice in style will enable them to choose equipment that suits the décor of their house.

Lighting

You may also need to provide accessory equipment, such as task lighting to supplement domestic lighting. Some work or office equipment won’t be suitable for domestic situations where young children are present. In these cases, it may be more appropriate to supply equipment intended for domestic use.

Laptops

If you provide remote workers with laptops, it’s wise to also provide them with a laptop stand that brings the top of the screen in line with the eye line. A separate keyboard and mouse would also be useful as it will allow employees to establish healthy, ergonomic seating positions.

Instruction and training on how to use software and manage minor equipment failures could also save you time down the line.

Electrical equipment

When it comes to electrical equipment, as an employer, it would be beyond reasonable accommodation to be responsible for the whole domestic electrical system at your employees’ homes.

Nevertheless, if you have concerns about electrical safety or the availability of sockets (leading to trailing leads or over-use of extension leads), you’ll need to agree with the employee how these hazards will be controlled.

Breaks and employee health

Ensure that staff have appropriate breaks and finishing times and that software is designed to notify them if they go beyond the working time act.

This can be further aided by dedicated work phones that transfer at a designated time to an out-of-hours service or answering machine.

Final tip

Lastly, it’s important that your employees stay in regular contact with their colleagues. This can be done through video conference calls or email. Doing so will aid employee mental wellbeing.

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