Freelance Tech Writer for SHP and IFSEC Insider

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A tech writer specialising in cybersecurity, working with Redscan on this and a number of other GDPR, MDR, and ethical hacking projects.
January 27, 2022

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home working

How has home working impacted official first aid requirements?

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on businesses of all sizes, affecting all areas from marketing and finance to customer service and HR. But, perhaps one area that has been affected more than any other is the rise in working from home. As businesses fought to keep day-to-day operations going, many people found remote working to be a great solution.

Indeed, it is not only the fact that workers did their jobs remotely through the pandemic, but the bigger issue is that remote working looks set to remain a major part of business operations. Around 70% of people in the UK believe that we will never return to office and in-person working to the level that we saw before the pandemic. 

This has meant a major change for how companies operate and also what is expected of them, and a great example of this is in the remit of first aid. Businesses might be used to their process of having a first aider, and understand who is responsible for recording incidents if anyone hurts themselves. However, with the huge increase in home working, our understanding of this has been thrown out of the window. 

Companies should re-evaluate how they handle first aid and accidents in the workplace when that workplace is the home.

What the rise of home working means for first aid

Woman sat at laptop at homeRemote working is something that has been around for a long time, but there is no doubt that the pandemic has had a big impact on making it far more commonplace. Indeed, remote working has a huge range of advantages for both employee and employer, but it does also mean having to adapt perceptions of workplace first aid. 

Official government advice regarding first aid and home working is relatively simple. It says: if your work is low-risk, such as desk-based work and you work in your own home, you don’t need any first aid equipment beyond normal domestic needs. If your work involves lots of driving, you may want to keep a first aid kit in your vehicle.

However, there is still an onus on employers to make sure that any work undertaken is done so in a safe manner, and that any relevant equipment is provided to ensure that staff can conduct their work from home as safely as possible. 

Who is responsible for the health and safety of remote workers?

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) states that employers are responsible for their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing – both when they are in the workplace and when they work remotely. Although it does make provision that employees do have responsibilities such as keeping in regular contact with their employer and letting them know about any risks or working arrangements that need to change. 

Of course, one of the challenges with remote working is that an employer doesn’t necessarily know the exact circumstances of the location, and therefore can’t understand if there may be risk. It is important, then, for there to be robust processes and procedures in place to make sure staff can assess their risk and feed that back to employers.

What are some of the potential risks with home working?

Back painIn many cases, working at home actually helps to reduce risk. The home is typically free from some of the potential physical hazards that can be associated with commercial or industrial spaces, and (clearly) risk while working at home is virtually identical to levels of risk in their personal life, which is low.

However, there are some issues that can raise the level of risk for workers who operate from their home:

  • Incorrectly setup workstations 
  • Lack of familiarity with new equipment 
  • Stress and anxiety from poorly managed workloads
  • Stress and anxiety from home technology issues 

Of course, every job is different and it is important for employees to understand that they are the ones who are best placed to assess the risk that they are facing. It is vital that businesses should listen closely to their staff to understand their concerns and the challenges that they believe they are going to face when they work remotely.

Read: SHP’s guide to home working

What can an employer do to reduce the risk of home working?

Clearly the risks that arise from working at home can differ from those in the workplace. It is important that employers take the time to understand what they can do to reduce the risk that their staff face, and find solutions. Ultimately, this can end up not only clearly being beneficial for staff, but also saving the company money. 

Some of the key steps that employers can take include:

  • Carrying out proper risk assessments – it is vital that employers understand the level of risk that their staff face in their new working environment. Ensure that high quality risk assessments are carried out to ascertain whether there is any element of risk that the company needs to address. Risk assessments can identify potential problems and find solutions before they become a reality.
  • Identify any areas of training required – one of the key ways that businesses can support their staff is by providing in-depth training sessions. This might mean anything from specific training for equipment that staff are going to use when working remotely, or certified first aid courses designed to give each member of staff an understanding of how to deal with issues when they arise
  • Ensure there are constant lines of communication – one of the most important ways to minimise risk and ensure that staff are protected at work is to make it as easy as possible for them to communicate not only with the manager but with other colleagues as well. 

While responsibility for first aid and the surrounding requirements are less clear for home workers, it remains the case that employers have a duty of care to their staff. Businesses must make sure that workers have everything that they need in order to work at home and to do so safely.

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Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
2 years ago

Accepting WCAG including ‘Colour Contrast Validations’ of websites / e-learning remains with the IT department of employer nevertheless, there is the question of “DSE operators Induction and guidance on Accessibility and custom reasonable adjustments” they are responsible for, whether working from home or the office in compliance with ISO 45001 Work Exposure Limits, visual break / rest and recuperation in the absence of “Right to Disconnect” along with ISO 30071.1 DSE Colour Contrast Calibration to mitigate eye-strain and binocular vision suppression, myopic and asthenopic disease.