Health and safety isn’t always about legal compliance, it is making a judgement based on circumstances

Vicki Filson

Vicki Filby-Filson
Senior Consultant, Assurity Consulting
24th March 2020

In response to the Government advice that people work at home if they can, the HSE have updated their guidance for home workers. The key concerns being lone working, use of display screen equipment (DSE), stress and mental health. The advice that the HSE has given for DSE says,

“For those people who are working at home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with display screen equipment (DSE) must be controlled. This includes doing home workstation assessments. However, there is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily. So, in that situation employers do not need to do home workstation assessments”. 

This is an unprecedented and extraordinary time. Since last week, some of us now also have children at home. Everyone seeking the best way to turn our homes into workplaces, schools and exercise spaces.

Whilst we don’t know exactly how long we will be taking these steps to minimise contact, these measures are still temporary. Additionally, given the circumstances and priority to avoid spread of Coronavirus, enforcement of the Display Screen Equipment Regulations by the HSE or your local authority is extremely unlikely.

There will be some organisations who take the step to purchase additional small equipment such as keyboards or send out existing equipment from the office. If this is practically or financially possible, that is great, but would not be the expectation.  

However, you can still help your staff get their workstations as comfortable as possible by providing simple advice and ensure equipment does not increase risk in the home.

  • Know how a workstation should be set up – the HSE checklist is useful. Please also see our recent insight on setting up a workstation
  • Get up and walk around regularly, take a lunch break, walk around the garden if you have one – with everyone at home, many will have plenty of distractions to achieve this;
  • Use things around the home to set up properly – a cushion to raise the height of a chair, or a book to raise a screen;
  • Be careful with trailing leads – especially if you now have others at home; and
  • Turn off and unplug everything at the end of the day.

Health and safety isn’t always about legal compliance, it is making a judgement based on circumstances. Life is not expected to be risk free, that’s why the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 uses the term, so far as is reasonably practicable.