Staying safe and healthy at work is a priority for most employees these days. Businesses and organisations have a legal duty of care with regards to the welfare, health and safety of their staff. Making clear provisions and not putting their people at unnecessary risk from the activities expected of them during their normal working day. The responsibility also extends to others directly affected by the business activities - customers, clients, visitors, freelance staff etc.
With the current global and national focus on the coronavirus, employers and employees are now facing a dramatic new concern.
Here we bring together a few key links with regards carrying out a Risk Assessment; the current focus on Coronavirus and some other H&S considerations when working from home.
One of the key mechanisms for protecting people in the workplace is the process of carrying out Risk Assessment. The process needs to be reviewed when there is a significant change. New equipment, technology, premises or personnel. Or when there is a change in the law, change to working practices or a newly identified health and safety concern - such as coronavirus COVID-19. With resulting precautions, actions and controls being clearly communicated to employees.
When considering new information impacting staff health and safety, using risk assessment is an excellent process. Effectively it involves identifying potential hazards with a systematic approach. Impacts to different people who might be harmed in the relevant environments. Any use of equipment, and the tasks to be carried out. Also with considerations to time; knowledge; training; awareness. It’s a deep process with many factors to think about.
When considering ‘who might be harmed?’ It’s thinking about teams of staff and fellow workers, as well as maintenance staff, cleaners, contractors and vulnerable people - for example, new mothers or people with different abilities and needs.
Your company should have an up to date Health and Safety policy with relevant risk assessments carried out by competent staff.
When there is to be a significant change in circumstances, it is helpful to consider a number of key areas. (Not only the immediate focus on virus, disease and personal hygiene.) If it is relatively new for employees to work from home for instance, it’s important to focus on other elements such as ergonomics, lone working, stress and anxiety, suitable breaks and workload. Working in a team provides a lot of dynamic support and so it’s quite different working in isolation.
There is also an opportunity to support good health and wellbeing for instance boosting immunity, staying fit and healthy generally, keeping up good social connection during these times of major change and inevitable upheaval. But it can also become an interesting new learning curve too. It’s important to be discerning when researching health advice from independent sources. However, it can be beneficial to keep an open mind while remaining practical and true to your own beliefs and values.