All of our exhibitors are busy supporting their clients at these difficult times. We spoke to Don Cameron, CEO at StaySafe one of our new exhibitors this year and he shared with us some of the advice they have been sharing with their clients. As the advice is very practical and useful, we thought we would share it with you….
Over the last few months, COVID-19 has swept across the nation leaving behind a trail of fear, confusion and uncertainty. Companies have been under increasing pressure to protect their staff, with some having to cease trading completely.
The coronavirus has affected employees in almost every industry and due to its nature, no workers are exempt from the risk. With a lockdown now in place in the UK, employers are having to consider the best ways to continue without risking the safety of their workforce.
Working from home risks
The government has been urging the public to adopt home working where possible as coronavirus cases continue to rise. Despite this currently being the safest option for employees, working from home carries its own risks.
In March, the HSE released new guidance aimed at employers to encourage them to consider the safety of home workers. As outlined by the HSE, one of the biggest risks is that if something goes wrong, such as an injury or medical emergency, there may be no one able to help. Risk of an injury or medical emergency is the same for a home working employee as for one on office premises and employers have the same duty of care.
During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s very unlikely that employers can carry out the usual health and safety risk assessments at employees’ homes. Whilst many people’s homes may be a safe and suitable place to work, employer’s will not know if there are issues or risks. For example, employees could have to work in unsanitary conditions or have troublesome neighbours. Domestic abuse charities have also warned that isolation will lead to an increase in violence in the home, with a 20% rise in cases in Northern Ireland. Employers have a responsibility to understand the risks that their employees may face and mitigate these, where possible.
Employers’ responsibilities to home workers
There is no doubt that many workers will be feeling extremely anxious and fearful due to current circumstances. For many employees, this will be the first time they’ve had to work away from the office and this may contribute to feelings of unease. So how can you ensure your staff are prepared to work from home and how can you keep them safe?
By law, employers must consider the safety of their home working staff and ensure (so far as is reasonably practicable) that employees have a safe environment to work from. However, with the lockdown in place, this is a particularly difficult time to assess and mitigate risks in employees’ homes, especially if the company employs hundreds of staff.
However, according to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) guidelines, employers should still check that:
- each employee feels the work they’re being asked to do at home can be done safely
- employees have the right equipment to work safely
- managers keep in regular contact with their employees, including making sure they do not feel isolated
- reasonable adjustments are made for an employee who has a disability
- If changes are needed, employers are responsible for making sure they happen
As it’s not practical for managers to visit remote workers, employees should complete a regular self-assessment of risk. When lone workers have to undertake dynamic risk assessments, they must receive training on how to make that assessment, consider the range of possible control measures and what action to take and get support for their decisions.
Employees also have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety.
Anyone working from home should keep in regular contact with their manager. They should also tell their manager about any health and safety risks and any home working arrangements that need to change.
Mitigating home working risks
Once any risks have been identified in an employee’s home, employers should do their best to solve these issues. Employers should put in place, clear consistent management systems and regularly monitor employees to ensure risks are being controlled adequately. Remote workers’ managers or an appointed assessor should make regular enquiries to make sure the employee is following safe practices. Employers should also review risk assessments regularly and involve the affected employees.
Working alone may leave individuals vulnerable as help is not as easily accessible in a difficult situation. Employers can mitigate this by ensuring staff have a way to signal for help if an accident happens by providing them with a lone working app or device.
Lone worker apps, such as StaySafe, are a great way to monitor the safety of your staff remotely. These apps are particularly suitable in the current climate because of how well they lend themselves to being trialled, rolled out and utilised by staff remotely.
Typically lone worker apps consist of the app itself, which has a range of functions including panic button, GPS location, timed sessions, man down alerts and check-ins. Employee activity and the location of staff whilst at work is monitored via a cloud based hub where employers can respond to any alerts.
If a worker has an accident or finds themselves in a dangerous situation, they can trigger an alert to a member of staff or an external monitor and emergency services can be quickly dispatched to their location. This alert can be triggered at any time, even if a session is not running. If an employee is ever in a situation where they are being forced to terminate the app by an assailant, a ‘false pin’ can be entered to appear as if the session has been cancelled when, in fact, a panic alarm has been triggered.
We are all concerned about the impact coronavirus will have on our lives, but the most important thing is to keep yourselves and your staff safe. As a way to provide support during this time, we are now offering a short-term homeworking package to help employers manage the safety of all their staff. It is worth considering using a lone worker app which can be used to ensure your staff have access to assistance should they need it.
If you’d like to find out more about StaySafe’s new homeworking offer please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the latest COVID-19 government guidance, visit the Government website.