After the pandemic, travelling into work every day may be a thing of the past, with more businesses deciding to adopt hybrid working models. A report by Robert Half found that 89% of UK businesses expect hybrid working trends to become a permanent fixture. This raises many questions around how to make this this new way of working successful but safe. We look at the actions employers can take to ensure that they comply with legislation and reduce the risk of workplace injuries.
What is hybrid working?
The pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working. Mark Dixon from IWG said that “working from home some of the time or hybrid working, will become the norm for many companies after the pandemic.”
Hybrid working can be defined as different employees working from a central or remote location throughout their working week or shift patterns.
Is working from home safer?
Working from home isn’t new and is often viewed as lower risk, but workplaces are built for working, most homes aren’t designed for remote working.
The 2019/20 Health and Safety Executive report found there were 693,000 non-fatal, self-reported accidents at work. It’s important to remember you are still at risk of injury regardless of whether you’re working at home or in the office, with most workers having a trip or fall 29%. Other causes of accident include lifting (19%), objects falling from height (8%) and stress at work (0.8 million cases).
Who is responsible for keeping employees safe from workplace injuries?
Whether your team are working from home either part-time or full-time, employers have a duty of care for the health and safety of their staff in both environments. The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities, and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they become ill or get injured at work.
The difficulty with staff working from home is that you may not be familiar with the individual’s workspace and any associated risks, this can make it hard to truly identify what the risks are, and what measures are needed.
Having robust processes and procedures can help individuals assess their own workspaces at home so you can support them more appropriately. This could be as simple as identifying they have limited access to a phone if they need help, through to more specific information around emergency access if they had an accident. The level of assessment needed will depend on the nature of the work they do.
As restrictions are lifted, it’s important to continually update your first aid needs assessment, so that it takes into account the known risks of Covid-19, changing numbers of your team at different locations and different working environments.
What does the duty of care cover?
As an employer you are responsible for safeguarding the physical and mental health of your team. When thinking about hybrid working, you need to minimise the risks, both in the workplace and remotely. Examples of risks may include:
- Poorly set up workstations at home resulting in Musculoskeletal injuries
- Anxiety, stress or even depression from badly managed workloads, the risks may even increase when working from home as there is likely more limited support from managers and mentors.
- Work-related stress from slow internet connections, interrupted video calls or other remote working challenges
How can employers reduce the risks associated with hybrid working?
As an employer you should consider:
- the potential risks to your team both in the workplace and when homeworking
- the type and duration of work activities in both environments
- whether required tasks can be completed safely
- if any additional equipment and training is required
- how the team will keep in contact and be supported and supervised
- if there are any other control measures that may be required to protect staffs physical and mental health.
The Health and Safety Executive has produced a guide featuring advice on protecting home workers.
What should you consider when looking at first aid in the hybrid workplace?
Flexible working patterns, staff bubbles and staff isolating may mean that first aid personnel are unavailable at times of the working day. If your needs assessment identifies that you require a trained first aider, you must ensure one is available. This means you may need to increase first aider provision for your organisation to ensure you are able to continue to offer the right level of cover with new flexible working patterns.
An appointed person is responsible for being the first point of contact for other employees regarding first aid provisions, ensuring that the first aid kit is up to date and appropriately stocked, writing and keeping accident records and calling the emergency services in the event of an incident. Appointed people do not routinely have first aid training and are not a suitable alternative to a trained first aider although their duties can be carried out by the first aider when one is available.
First aid kit
As an employer, you are required to provide sufficient first aid equipment, such as a first aid kit, along with suitable facilities, whether that be at home or remotely. Your first aid needs assessment will enable you to decide on what provision you need.
The needs assessment should consider hybrid working circumstances including the hazards and risks that may be present in the workspaces used. Your first aid needs assessment may identify unique risks that need specific equipment or resources, this means the kit you provide will need to be suitably stocked to meet these specific requirements.
When assessing your first-aid needs, you should think about:
- the type of work
- workplace hazards and risks (both in the workplace and remotely)
- the nature and size of your workforce
- the work patterns of your staff (consider newly formed staff bubbles and shift patterns)
- holiday and other absences of those who will be first-aiders and appointed persons
- your organisation's history of accidents
You may also need to think about:
- the needs of travelling, remote and lone workers
- the distribution of your workforce
- the remoteness of any of your sites from emergency medical services
- whether your employees work on shared or multi-occupancy sites
- first-aid provision for non-employees (e.g. members of the public). You can view the full Health and Safety (First Aid) 1981 guidance here.
How can you remain first aid compliant?
Hybrid working is here to stay and adequate first aid provision can help to improve the outcomes of injuries and illnesses that occur, so it's important to fully understand your duties. That's why we've put together a helpful, clear and comprehensive eBook: The complete guide to first aid at work. Download it today to help you remain first aid compliant.