How to manage remote worker health and safety

Stephanie Byrne-Roche

July 12 2021

Earlier this year, the Second Annual National Remote Working Survey found that over 95% of employees favoured some form of remote working. Not even 5% wanted to go back to the office full-time.

Those are startling statistics given that most employees didn’t have the option to work from home pre-COVID-19. It also means it’s likely one of your employees will come to you looking to continue their homeworking arrangement.

To give you an idea of your obligations as an employer should you allow an employee to work from home, we’ve outlined the key health & safety requirements below. But first, a little context…

Do employees have the right to work remotely?

In January 2021, the government launched ‘Making Remote Work’, the country’s new National Remote Work Strategy.

This new employee right is expected to be in place by the end of September 2021. Its objective is to “ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way that maximises economic, social, and environmental benefits.”

However, this is not an absolute right and you still have the authority to reject a request provided you have a justifiable reason for doing so.

It might be the case that you do allow an employee to work from home. If so, there are several health & safety risks to consider…

Workplace health & safety legislation

Ireland’s legislation puts the occupational health & safety of employees in the hands of the employer.

What that means is, even if an employee is working from home, the home becomes a workplace. As a result, it’s your responsibility to ensure the home is a safe place for the employee to work, as far as is reasonably practicable.

If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to assess the safety of your employee’s working environment. And how do you do that…a risk assessment of course.

Carrying out a risk assessment will help to minimise the risk of injury. Not only that, it will also show that you’ve complied with your obligations under health & safety legislation.

The risk assessment process should also include feedback from the employee about their home workstation. Questions to ask when undertaking a risk assessment include:

  • What, if any, are the hazards in the home?
  • Does the employee have a suitable desk, chair, and screen?
  • Is the room/home office adequately ventilated and bright enough for the employee to complete their work?
  • Have trip hazards e.g., cables, been identified?

Lastly, remind employees of their duty to protect their own safety while at work by issuing or reissuing your health & safety policy. Legislation requires employees to take reasonable care to protect their own health and safety and not to engage in behaviour that will endanger themselves or others.

VIDEO: Key health & safety considerations for employees working from home

Consider your vulnerable employees

When undertaking your risk assessment, consider the needs of your vulnerable staff. Vulnerable workers may include:

  • Older workers
  • Pregnant workers
  • Those with underlying medical conditions
  • Employees who live alone

The benefit of an Employee Assistance Programme

One useful tool your employees can rely on to protect their overall health is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). 

An EAP provides independent counselling for employees who have issues that they might not want to bring directly to you. This includes 24/7 counselling via live chat, phone, and email, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions.

Need our help handling remote worker health & safety?

If you need instant advice on handling remote worker health & safety, we can help.

To speak to a health & safety expert now, call 1890 252 923.

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