Peoplesafe CEO, Naz Dossa, comments on updated HSE guidance
During the pandemic, the Health and Safety Executive extended their guidance to include employees working from home as lone workers. This means that employers now have a duty of care that extends to their employees’ homes as a workplace, and therefore, they should be checking in to ensure their employees have a safe space to work in.
I think there’s a lot of situations where people are at risk because there’s a lot of people out there that are either troubled or just out to cause trouble, and having something that you can press and instantly get help, I think that’s a good idea.
Her employer didn’t want to get I don’t know security cameras and stuff like that, so she felt super unsafe every night and eventually she quit because she yeah felt threatened.
My daughter-in-law’s kind of have tactics when they’re walking alone, like you know they’ll pretend to be talking to somebody on mobile phones something like that so that they appear to be kind of in contact with somebody so I think you know personal alarms and things are a good idea.
We did have and it was a young girl I think she was 22/23 and she was left alone with a client that came in and they were awkward and weird and made her feel very uncomfortable. So I think all she did was that she sent a message to her line manager who then came in and tried to sort out the situation. It was the guy that came in was just really strange and making her uncomfortable, so I think if yeah if she’d have had something that she could have just pressed and then we’d instantly know that it was an issue I think that’s a good thing yeah.
In the past, a lone worker was always considered to be an individual that works unsupervised for a period of time during their working week. During the pandemic, the Health and Safety Executive changed that guidance and extended it to home workers, so if you are now working as many of us have done during the pandemic, at home, you are now considered to be a lone worker.
So now that home workers are considered as lone workers under Health and Safety Executive’s guidance, that means that the place of work extends to an individual’s home. So as an employer you need to ensure that that place of work is safe, you also need to make sure for example, that if an incident happens to that employee whilst they’re working at home alone, they have the ability to raise an alarm back to someone who runs a specific Alarm Receiving Centre or perhaps back to their manager.
So when you’re working at home on your own, the key thing is that you’re potentially on your own. Now whilst the responsibility is not on the employer to ensure that the desk, or the chair, or the screen is at the right height, it is their responsibility to make sure that there is an element of safety and the ability to raise an alarm. In addition, mental health and well-being is a huge issue, we’ve seen studies come out through the pandemic well-being of people working on their own at home has increased significantly, so communication is key.
How does an employer communicate with that home worker who’s considered to be a lone worker? how do they have the ability for that lone worker to raise an alarm to say that I’m not well or I’m not feeling well? So what we encourage is lots of communication, but for employers to look at technology as ways to communicate with their employees.
So what employers need to do is look at a number of providers of services that could help assist them with checking in on the well-being of their employees. They can also provide services which will allow employees to raise an alarm if a situation occurs at home which has an impact on their safety. There may be a slip, a trip or a fall for example, and they need to be able to raise an alarm to say that they can’t move and this could happen during the working day.
So the HSE provides guidance and that means it’s not statutory, so there’s no legal requirement, but in a workplace in an office place the employer will take a number of precautions to ensure the health and safety of their employees and what they need to do is extend that thinking to an individual’s home so that they get the same benefits and protection.
Liability is a very difficult area and it’s not necessarily about addressing the liability question for an employer I think it’s more about being a good employer and showing that you have the duty of care to look after your employees.
When we look at penalties, the most extreme example is corporate manslaughter charges brought against executives of a company because a lone worker was injured or suffered death due to an accident that happened while they were working alone and health and safety regulations weren’t followed.
Those are thankfully few and far between and we’re not talking about implications such as that. What we’re talking about is just doing the right thing as an employer, thinking about of your duty of care and thinking about the employee and sometimes the fact that employees are often working not from dedicated office spaces at home. They might be working from bedrooms, they might not be taking regular breaks and they just need a bit more human interaction and communication in order to maintain a good level of well-being and mental health.
When thinking about advice and what employers should do there are a number of guides out there and checklists in order to make sure that you are doing the right things for your employees. I would encourage employers to look at the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance, I’d encourage employers to look at companies such as Peoplesafe, look at our website where there’s a number of guides and checklists in order to make sure that you’re fulfilling your obligations. But as I repeat and keep saying is that you are keeping your employees safe.
So if you are the home worker or now what you’re considered to be the lone worker, when you’re at home it’s really important to check that you have the ability to work in an environment that’s conducive to work. So you think about your chair ,you think about the height of your desk, you think about the height of your screen so that you don’t get any musculoskeletal problems, you think about taking regular breaks, you think about the fact that you need to communicate with individuals so that you don’t start to feel lonely anxiety and depressed. And it’s really important that if you are concerned about any parts of that, you speak to your employer and talk to
them about it and say I need some help around these certain areas.
Peoplesafe is the provider of employee safety solutions through IOT-connected devices or smartphone applications. What those do is give you the ability to raise an alarm to our 24/7 dedicated Alarm Receiving Centre, so in the event of verbal abuse or physical abuse you have the ability to raise an alarm there’s a panic button on the device and there’s the ability to shake your phone to rate discreetly raise an alarm.
You then get a two-way communication channel instantly with our Alarm Receiving Centre. They will monitor the situation and they can address it by calling on the appropriate blue light services, whether it be the police or the ambulance to come to your assistance.
The advantage that we have is when you raise that alarm not only do we know who is calling, but we also know where you are through the technology that we use called What3Words and that means we can provide that critical information, for example to the police, that saves them having to gather that information and we act as a triage service meaning that when you depress the alarm you get the best possible outcome.
As the return to work now starts to increase it’s important that employers remember what their duty of care was to those employees in the workplace once again. And whilst we’re talking about individuals who aren’t actually considered to be high-risk lone workers and normally those lone workers would be security individuals, HGV drivers, the fact that we have employees back at work, they could often be travelling during the course of work, during the day, to visit customers or visit site, and the duty of care does extend to those journeys once it doesn’t extend to the commute.
In addition, a number of people work late or work shifts and therefore they might be travelling late at night, having to walk home from a station, they may be having to walk to a dimly lit car park in order to get to their car. What if an incident happened at that point? What does an employer do to give that employee the ability to raise an alarm? And I would ask and stress that employers think about all of their employees now and not just their high-risk workers.