How to Conduct a Remote Working Risk Assessment

Remote Working Risk Assessment
Running a remote working risk assessment helps to:

Protect your workforce from health risks and safety hazards

Ensure effective health and safety policies

Prevent unnecessary costs that can incur from poor risk management

Reduce your legal liability

Technologies that make remote work seamless existed before the global pandemic, but…

…because many employers believed that remote working arrangements resulted in less productive and innovative workers, these arrangements were far less utilized before 2020.

However, out of necessity, remote work and the technologies that support it defined the pandemic years and revolutionized the working world.

This normalization of remote work and hybrid arrangements has transformed work culture, but it does come with a set of employer responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is to understand how to conduct a remote working risk assessment. Let’s look into what work from home risks exist and how to implement a process to manage a consistent work from home risk assessment.

Health, Safety, and Environment Responsibilities

Your responsibilities for the welfare of remote workers falls under the same health, safety, and environment (HSE) guidelines as it does for workers located on company premises.

The procedures for conducting a home working risk assessment differs, however, then an in-office assessment. This is true because some remote work risks differ from in-office risks. Recognizing and managing those risks differs too.

To fulfill your HSE responsibilities, your work from home risk assessment checklist should include the following:

Ensuring a home working risk assessment is carried out

Identifying HSE risks and hazards

Taking reasonable steps to eliminate or reduce risks, including providing appropriate training and resources

Recording work from home assessment findings

Reviewing and updating risk assessments regularly

If these are your responsibilities to home workers, what types of HSE risks are you looking to identify in a remote working risk assessment?

The Risks of Remote Working

The risks of remote work fall under the three main categories of HSE: health, safety, and environment.

Common Health Risks

Adverse mental health associated with the isolation of lone workers, which can cause stress and anxiety

Overwork and burnout caused by a lack of connection with team members

Physical aches, pains, and impairments associated with display screen equipment (DSE) fatigue, ergonomically incorrect workstations, and working long hours without taking breaks

Common Safety Risks

Electrical hazards associated with faulty wiring or equipment, or inadequate sockets

Fire hazards associated with work spaces not up to code or lacking proper fire safety measures, such as smoke detectors or fire alarms

A lack of adequate workspace resulting in clutter or hazardous conditions

Common Environmental Risks

Improper ventilation of the work area

Temperatures that are too cold or too hot for safe working

Increased noise levels

A lack of privacy or dedicated workspace

How to Ensure the Health and Safety of Remote Workers

The first step to ensuring the health and safety of remote workers is to conduct a remote working risk assessment that is designed to make it easy to comply with HSE rules and regulations. This can be difficult because you may not be able to visit an employee’s home to conduct one. To carry out a risk assessment, work from home employees may need to be trained to do it themselves. They can also send pictures of their workspace. It is the workers responsibility to keep the home work environment safe after the assessment is completed. It is the employers responsibility to periodically review the assessment if there is reason to believe risks may have changed. This may occur if the employee takes on a new role, new equipment is introduced, or the employee’s responsibilities shift resulting in longer screen time. Keeping track of regular assessments and follow-up reports is also important.

How to Build a Remote Working Risk Assessment Template

You may find a home risk assessment example that includes questions about the employee’s mental and physical health, the safety of their work setup, or their work environment, but several HSE standards need to be taken into consideration when conducting a remote working risk assessment. These standards include detailed assessments of:

The home working environment

The electrical and fire safety precautions present in the home

The remote workspace setup

The computer workstation and equipment

The employee’s health and wellbeing

Details covering these categories are important in a working from home risk assessment. HSE guidelines are designed to protect workers and none of these assessment categories should be ignored. Using a comprehensive template can help you remain consistent in managing your remote working risk assessment on a regular basis.

An HSE working from home risk assessment template can be created to include:

Name and work activity of employee

Address, location, and contact information of employee

Name of assessor (which may be the employee)

Dates of the current remote working risk assessment and the next review

A space for employer action or plan to alleviate any concerns

A space for a manager to check off the review of risk assessment findings

Questions about the working environment including lighting, presence of screen glare, any remedies available for screen glare, whether heating and ventilation is acceptable

Questions about electrical safety including equipment maintenance, adequate sockets available, if electrical system is in good condition, and if faults in electrical equipment are visible

Questions about fire safety including the presence of any flammable materials, fire escape routes, and smoke detectors or fire alarms, and whether they are being maintained

Questions about employee workspace and storage, including whether employee has enough comfortable work space available, enough privacy to carry out work, and a space free of hazards

Questions about the employee’s work-life balance, workload, hours, awareness of lone working resources, training, or if they know how to contact a manager or IT specialist if they have a problem or need help

A space for employees to write further about any health concerns

Questions about employee’s computer workstation, including the safe setup of their desk, screen, keyboard, mouse or docking station and whether their chair setup is comfortable and adequate

Questions allowing for an evaluation of screen quality, eye-strain, and adequate legroom and under desk workspace

Questions about employee’s computer usage allowing for evaluation of possible health effects, including adequate breaks, any aches or pains associated with prolonged usage, or blurred vision, dry eyes, or headaches

Other questions that consider whether the employee needs extra equipment due to prolonged computer use, needs a bag to transport laptop equipment, or is over-reliant on handheld devices for written communication

A space for employees to communicate any other health, safety, or environment questions or concerns

After conducting a remote working risk assessment, it is important to support employees in solving any identified risks.

Some Solutions to Common Risks for Remote Workers

Encourage Breaks

It is vital to encourage remote workers to take breaks to alleviate both mental and physical health risks. Employees should know to:

Split long periods of display screen work with other types of work

Take a break for five minutes for every hour worked

Avoid awkward and static working postures

Do stretching exercises or move around regularly

Reduce eye fatigue by blinking and changing focus

Create a Comfortable Workspace

By installing ergonomic and specialized equipment to meet working needs remote employees can vastly improve their workspace. Equipment can include proper keyboards, a mouse, laptop risers, larger display screens, adjustable chairs, height adjustable desks, or support cushions.

Promote Remote Collaboration and Team Building

Collaboration and team connection help remote workers break down feelings of isolation and disconnection. Some steps to build strong remote teams include:

Regular, scheduled check-ins

Regular team meetings with time to share ideas

Regular visits with colleagues, if possible.

Utilizing communication systems with off-premise staff during the day via phone, email, instant messaging, videoconferencing, and other communication platforms

Remote working technologies exist to make remote collaboration and team building seamless and innovative.

Make Accessing Support Easy

Remote workers can feel less capable of accessing support from colleagues and management. Make sure they are aware of available support and maintain open communication channels to avoid frustration and anxiety. Easily accessible IT support helplines are important too. Knowing how to reach out for help when needed goes a long way in helping alleviate stressors experienced by remote workers.

Mental Health Resources

To support employees in taking care of their mental health, it is important to head off any problems early. Make sure employees know how to recognize signs of stress or loneliness, and how to access available mental health resources when needed.

HSE Training for Remote Staff

HSE should be a regular part of discussions and reviews. Employers should have clear, understandable HSE policies and employees should know how to report issues.

Risk Assessment and Employee Welfare

Remote work technology and the changes in work culture brought about by the global pandemic have made work from home arrangements a permanent fixture in businesses across the world. Conducting a remote working risk assessment for remote employees needs to be permanent fixtures for companies and managers too. The welfare of employees depends on ensuring their health, safety, and working environment through this important process.

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