How to manage remote work health and safety

Remote work health and safety is a challenge to Sheq managers who serve some people working abroad, off site, or at home.

As at the regular workplace, remote work health and safety requires integration of unique hazards and risks into a clear and consistent management system, and regular review to ensure that the measures are adequate and effective.

Due to information technology, global business, or projects, many people work away from an office.

The adage ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is especially true of staff members off site, travelling, home-based, or at clients’ premises.

Yet the employer still has the usual duty of care, plus some additional liabilities, duties, and ethical imperatives.

Develop a Remote Working Health and Safety Policy
If an organisation employs staff in remote working roles they should have a policy covering this. The policy should take in to consideration at least these aspects;
• Geographical spread of the remote working staff
• Legal requirements and applicable laws
• Organisational responsibility
• Personal responsibility
• Management of ‘after hours’ activity
• Safe System of Work
• Travel, destination and site risk assessments
• Review.

If there are employees who are required to travel abroad, consider drafting a separate international policy.

Perform a Remote Work Risk Assessment
Factors to consider include at least;
• Work environment and premises
• Work equipment, maintenance, transportation of equipment
• Mental wellbeing, isolation, and stress of changes
• Communication systems and formats
• Separation of home and working life
• Procedure covering security, accidents, illness, or assault
• Travel risks, driver training and health checks

Travel risk management should cover company vehicles or private vehicles used for company business, roadworthy checks, and breakdown assistance.

Plan every part of travel thoroughly and set realistic and flexible time schedules. Implement company policy on cell phone usage while driving, and on drinking and driving, and on traffic violations.

Policy implementation involves more than a list of rules on paper. It has to be benchmarked against your legal register, other policies, best practice, contracts (including travel suppliers’ contracts), emergency services, equipment, occupational and personal health and hygiene exposures, and insurance register.

Monitor Remote Work Health and Safety
Tele-conference calls may ensure that remote workers do not feel isolated or left out of the decision-making process regarding their work, workplaces and schedules.

With the involvement of remote workers and their staff, develop and review your policies, preparation, risk assessments and procedures regularly.

Employees could complete a self-assessment, including information on risks, exposures, facilities, hygiene, and health, before and after each major trip, or work site change. Home-based workers should review their risks at least annually.

• Adrian Woon (UK NVQ 5 Diploma, Grad IOSH UK) is a regional Health and Safety Advisor at Schneider Electric UK.
• See posts on travel risks and security management at
http://sheqafrica.com/work-travel-risk-list/
http://sheqafrica.com/duty-of-care-standard/
http://sheqafrica.com/north-african-safety-rank/

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Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.