Health and Safety for Remote Workers
Health and Safety for remote workers is vitally important to get right. As an employer, you have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of all your employees, including those who work remotely. Line managers are responsible for supervising the health and safety of remote workers, and identify any associated risks. Remote staff need access to safe premises, tools and systems to be able to perform their work in a safe manner. A breach of health and safety law is a criminal offence (which could lead to hefty fines and prosecution), so always ensure that your remote workers are given the right information and training, as required.
Assess any potential risks and put in place any measures that will prevent or control any risk factors. Here are five main steps to consider when carrying out a risk assessment.
To ensure health and safety of remote workers is managed correctly, employers need to:
- identify any hazards;
- decide who may be harmed and how;
- assess the risks and take swift action to remove/reduce such risks as much as possible;
- record important findings, especially if there are five of more employees working remotely; and
- assess at regular intervals to ensure that any further steps can be taken, if necessary.
Due to the nature of remote working, there can sometimes be physical risks due to visiting domestic or commercial premises. Should a remote worker feel unsure as to whether a situation is safe or not, and they cannot contact their manager, they should obtain advice or go home until a full assessment can be made. Lastly, remote workers are at greater risk of experiencing psychosocial problems – for example, stress caused by working alone or long hours.
Remote Workers and Company Property
It may be necessary for remote workers to access or possess confidential company information and expensive company-owned equipment. Whether they keep such information or equipment in their home, and/or take this with them when travelling to clients’ premises, employers need to organise training to off-set any risks.
Remote workers need to:
- take reasonable care to safeguard the employer’s property;
- not leave any property, including laptops and confidential information, in unlocked car boots or on car seats;
- not read confidential information on any form of public transport;
- have suitable arrangements for storing information – e.g. lockable filing cabinets;
- ensure that computers or laptops used for work cannot be easily accessed by family members; and
- report any loss or theft of company property immediately to the police and to the employer.
Overall, as a line manager, you should ensure that Health and Safety for remote workers is essential and they workers should fully understand how best to handle company property by providing them with your company policy and guidelines. Check regularly that remote staff are putting these measures in place during review meetings, telephone calls and by email.
If you would like help or HR advice on how to manage a remote team, please call 01455 231982 or 07716 918272.