In a recent webinar, Kay Baxter, an Inspector at the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) provided us with some insights and key tips on returning to work safely.
Here's the top 5 Q&As that came from the session.
Question 1: The advice seems to be to work from home where possible. However, does this not cause health and safety issues where people are working from home in an environment where it has not been ergonomically assessed? (for example, a kitchen table).
Working from a kitchen table is not an issue provided the employee has the correct equipment and a suitable, adjustable chair. Employers can arrange for a virtual ergonomic assessment to be carried out by a competent person, using the technology we have all come to depend on for working from home. Any issues identified should then be addressed by the employer. An initial assessment to establish the extent of support needed could be done by asking all employees to complete a survey or questionnaire to identify exactly what equipment is needed. Employees should be encouraged to stand and move for 1-2 minutes every half hour.
Also, on www.hsa.ie you will find a ‘Position Yourself Well’ graphic which can be sent to all employees.
Question 2: Where staff work 1-2 days per week, does the Employee Return to Work Form have to be completed each time (weekly) when they go into the office?
No, the return to work form only needs to be completed once, with the provision that should an employee’s health status change they will inform their employer.
Question 3: How are the HSA dealing with the advice of "work from home where possible" scenarios during their inspections? Are they querying why people in general have returned and are they seeking validation of decisions made in that regard?
Yes, in any environment where we form the opinion that employees could still be working from home, we are asking employers to justify the need for employees to be in the workplace in writing. However, if an employer says they have a legitimate business need for their employees to attend the workplace it is difficult for us to contradict that.
Question 4: Can you comment on the use of hot desks within offices and the use of shared equipment? (i.e. keyboard, mouse etc.).
The use of hot desks and shared equipment should be avoided as far as possible. If this is not possible then a strict cleaning and sanitation procedure needs to be implemented between each user. Any employee in a higher risk category should not be required to share equipment.
Question 5: Should workplaces actively encourage their staff to download the Covid 19 tracker on their phones?
That is a decision for the management of each workplace and each staff members individual decision must be respected.
A copy of the Return to Work Safely presentation is available for members to review in their Member Area. Simply go to Connect and then click 'Blogs & Resources'.