As employees return to the office what are employers’ health and safety obligations? With an estimated 11 million Brits (source: BUPA) suffering increased back problems as a result of working from home, how can employers ensure the office is safe? Amanda Harris MCSP, expert Physiotherapist and Founder of The Physio Company (www.thephysiocompany.co.uk) provides her top tips:
- Ensure all employees are using fully adjustable chairs. If your employees are working partly from home, you will need to supply appropriate chairs for the office and home.
- Supply rucksacks. Will your employees be carrying laptops to and from the office and meetings? If so, it’s worth supplying rucksacks so that the weight is evenly distributed; laptops flung into handbags can cause serious neck injuries.
- Make sure that IT equipment can be used safely. Laptops are not designed for full time work. If you are expecting employees to use them, you have to supply stands and separate keyboards so that the screen can be brought up to the correct height (the top of the screen should be level with the user’s eyes. The keyboard should be level with their elbows).
- Train staff to adjust their workstation before use. Hot desking is no longer as popular as it was due to the pandemic. However, if you do intend to return to it, or introduce it, all employees have to be trained in how to adjust the workstation, including the chair, to suit them. They will also need to be instructed to clean the workstation after use to prevent infection.
- Make social distancing easy to achieve. You may find you will need to leave some empty desks or, if that’s not possible due to space, install screens between desks to protect staff. Hand sanitiser should be readily available and face masks should be worn in communal areas.
As an employer you have a legal obligation to supply a safe working environment. A key part of that is the workstation set up, whether employees are at home or in your office. All employees should be given desk tests (which can be conducted remotely) to assess the workstation and make any necessary adjustment. I would also recommend hiring a Health and Safety professional as it is easy for key issues to be overlooked, which can put the employer at risk of prosecution.
Please visit: www.thephysiocompany.co.uk