Working at home is becoming an increasing part of how we deliver services and is likely to continue as we move through the recovery phases from the COVID response.
We therefore need to ensure that the workforce continues to be supported for any periods of extended homeworking and this ‘How To….’ offers you guidance around home working arrangements, workstations and healthy working habits to create a safe and healthy environment.
WHEN AT HOME AND SITTING AT YOUR WORKSTATION:
Since we have been working at home during COVID-19, it is likely that most of us will spend a lot of time at workstations that we have put together ourselves. We can easily form bad habits when we are working at home and bad posture can lead to aches and pains which in turn can result in long term problems and injuries.
There are a number of key hazards which should be considered in relation to home working, and setting up homeworking stations, these are:
- Display Screen Equipment
- Work Equipment
- Slips, Trips and Falls
As well as the risks to home working employees there are risks to the following groups:
- Family Members
- Vulnerable persons (e.g. Young Children or the Elderly).
REDUCING THE RISKS FROM DISPLAY SCREEN WORK
Measures that can help reduce the risks from display screen work include:
- breaking up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) or changes in activity;
- avoiding awkward, static postures by regularly changing position;
- getting up and moving or doing stretching exercises; and
- avoiding eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time.
- don’t tuck your legs up beneath you when you sit – this can place your spine in a side flexed, twisted position
- be aware that recliner chairs can sometimes increase lower back pain if you sit with your legs out straight for long periods
- Build small and regular movements into your home life - simple stretching exercises can be beneficial.
CHECK YOUR POSTURE
There are several ways we can check our posture and ensure we don’t develop bad habits while working from our desks at home. Click here to view important tips on how to sit correctly at your workstation and reduce injury.
SETTING UP YOUR LAPTOP TO AVOID LONG TERM INJURY
It is important to set up your laptop workstation properly, especially if you will be using it for long periods of time to work from home.
To set your laptop up correctly, use a desk with a mouse, a mini keyboard and laptop stand. By not setting it up properly you run the risk of long-term neck and shoulder injuries. You can place a great deal of strain on your body if you crouch over a laptop for extended periods of time.
If you are working from a laptop at home, click here to view important tips on how to use your laptop correctly at your workstation.
No matter how well your desk and workstation are set up at home, we all get stiff and achy from sitting in the same position for too long. When we work at our computers we don’t move very often, and it is this lack of movement that can lead to our muscles being sore.
Below is a list of recommendations to reduce muscular aches and pains:
- Regularly vary work tasks, looking at organisation of the working day
- Break up ‘on-screen’ activities with micro-breaks – tasks which involve movement, stretching and changes to body position
- Trying standing during some tasks and moving away from the workstation for short periods where possible
WHY YOU NEED TO STRETCH AT YOUR DESK AT HOME
Stretching is beneficial to your body in general and it plays a role in reducing musculoskeletal disorders and there are many way to prevent these occurring through early interventions and regular reflection on posture, movement and supports.
Here are a set of neck and shoulder stretches you can try:
- Sit or stand upright. Without lifting chin, glide head straight back until a stretch is felt
- Hold for slow count of 10
- Repeat 3 – 5 times
- Drop head slowly to one side, taking ear towards shoulder until stretch is felt
- Hold for slow count of 10
- Repeat 3 – 5 times
Shoulder stretch exercise
• Raise shoulders towards ears until slight tension felt across tops of shoulders
• Hold for slow count of 10
• Repeat 3 – 5 times
Shoulder roll exercise
• Sitting with back supported, slowly roll shoulders up and backwards in circular motion
• Repeat 10 times
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Home working staff require to have access to the same Health and Safety information and guidance as office based staff. We will be sharing some links to training materials via Employee News and we are creating a Health & Safety Zone within the Employee Zone of the website.
Health & Safety General Awareness Modules on Your Learning Hub
- Jenison Microlearn: Health & Safety Introduction
- Jenison Microlearn: Display Screen Equipment
- Jenison Microlearn: Manual Handling
- Jenison Microlearn: Fire
- Jenison Microlearn: Slips & Trips
- Jenison Microlearn: First Aid
- Jenison Microlearn: Dangerous Substances
- Jenison Microlearn: Electricity
RISK ASSESSMENT/DSE ASSESSMENT
Risk assessments should be specific to the home worker’s home environment and involve the home worker in the process of identifying potential hazards.
The risk assessment should consider how the task interacts with the home environment, and whether there are risks to others, for example is there a risk to young children from electrical equipment.
A generic risk assessment is available at the end of this document. The home worker should complete this in order to assess what changes may be needed to make their home environment safer to work in.
As the home environment can be subject to greater change than the work environment, risk assessments may require to be reviewed dynamically if circumstances change, i.e. pregnancy, vulnerable relatives coming to stay, children around, etc.
A display screen equipment self-assessment should be completed by the employee as per the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992. While there may not be facilities to meet all requirements of the DSE assessment, the employee should take note of techniques and tips to reduce risk as low as reasonably practicable.
EQUIPMENT PROVISION AND MAINTENANCE
The Council has been operating SMART working for a number of years and as such, employees who have the ability to work from home are provided with with laptop which enables them to connect remotely to the Council’s servicer.
If the employee has suitable furniture already at home then this can be used.
Only equipment, materials and substances provided by the Council shall be the responsibility of the employer. If at any time there is a concern about the condition of equipment supplied by the Council, this concern must be raised immediately with the employee’s manager.
It is the responsibility of the employee to ensure that all reasonable measures are in place and maintained to reduce the risk of fire within their homes e.g. smoke detectors being maintained.
All council laptops have been PAT tested on issue and therefore IT have a schedule of renewals which they manage.
Incident or accidents occurring while working from home must be reported by the employee as per the requirements of the Council Incident Reporting Procedures. This can be done by using the HS1a and HS1b form from the Hub.
For further information:
Health and Safety Team Leader
Health and Safety Adviser
Health and Safety Adviser