During 2020 we all had to adapt and adjust our daily routines, which for a lot of us included adapting to working from home.
Alongside the benefits of ‘waist-up’ screen dressing, continuous access to the fridge, and being able to put your washing on whilst on a zoom call, working from home also presents challenges for employers. Challenges such as what to do with your employee's display screen equipment (DSE) and how to mitigate risk and ensure your employees are comfortable and safe.
What is DSE?
Display Screen Equipment or DSE includes computers, laptops, tablets, and even mobile phones.
Working with display screen equipment
For those people who are working at home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using display screen equipment (DSE) must be controlled. This includes them doing workstation assessments at home.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) made it clear at the beginning of the first lockdown that it will not be necessary to carry out the normal DSE assessment that is an absolute requirement for all office workers and long term home workers but it is still necessary to give your employees general guidance to ensure they are safe and comfortable working from home.
This is the advice the HSE gives:
Temporary home working
'There is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily. So in that situation, employers do not need to ask them to carry out home workstation assessments. During any period of temporary home working, employers need to regularly discuss these arrangements with their employees. If such work is adversely affecting the health, safety, and welfare of their employees, they should take appropriate steps.
However, employers should provide workers with advice on completing their own basic assessment at home. This practical workstation checklist (PDF)- Portable Document Format may help them.
There are some simple steps people can take to reduce the risks from display screen work:
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
avoiding eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time
Specialised DSE equipment needs
Employers should try to meet those needs where possible.
For some equipment (eg keyboards, mouse, riser) this could mean allowing workers to take this equipment home.
For other larger items (eg ergonomic chairs, height-adjustable desks) encourage workers to try other ways of creating a comfortable working environment (eg supporting cushions).
The HSE have developed a short guide to assist you can view it here.
As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for your regular in-office workers.
When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:
How will you keep in touch with them?
What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
Can it be done safely?
Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?
Lone working without supervision
There will always be greater risks for lone workers with no direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong.
You should keep in touch with lone workers, including those working from home, and ensure regular contact to make sure they are healthy and safe.
If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated, or abandoned. This can affect stress levels, mental health, and productivity at work.
Keep DSE arrangements under review
As any period of temporary home working extends, employers should have regular discussions with their workers to assess whether additional steps are needed, for example where they report:
aches, pains, or discomfort related to their temporary DSE arrangements
adverse effects of working in isolation, on remote IT systems
working longer hours without adequate rest and recovery breaks
Where employers decide to make working from home arrangements permanent, they should explain how to carry out full workstation assessments and provide workers with appropriate equipment and advice on control measures
Stress and mental health
Home working can cause work-related stress and affect people’s mental health. Being away from managers and colleagues could make it difficult to get proper support.
Keep in touch
You should put procedures in place so you can keep in direct contact with your home workers so they can recognise signs of stress as early as possible.
It is also important to have an emergency point of contact and to share this so people know how to get help if they need it.
For those long-term home workers that use DSE as a significant part of their role, a telephone or other remote DSE assessment can be carried out. The HSE have developed a check sheet that can be utilised to assist.
Mitigate risk, stay in touch, and follow HSE advice where applicable.
If your business is looking to protect itself from risk by undertaking the correct advice and following legislation, be sure to get in touch at email@example.com. Our team of experts will be happy to assist.