Category Archives: Office Health and Safety

8 Ways to Improve Homeworking

Home Working

Home Working

There are many people working from home, given the current situation we are in with COVID-19. This percentage may drop in the future, but for now, if we can work from home, that’s what we should do.
With kitchens and spare rooms now becoming a more permanent office space for many, staff should take time to make sure the space is serving their needs and not causing any damage. Your employers can help with this in many ways. Discuss your concerns with them.

Here we look at 8 ways to improve homeworking. If you have any suggestions, let us know.

1. Perform a risk assessment

Health and safety law requires that employers do all that they can to ensure the wellbeing of their staff. This obligation has not changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and so risks to employees need to be managed in the usual way.
Although generally low risk, homeworking is not exempt from the law, and so a risk assessment should be carried out on the home environment to identify hazards. The risk assessment will also need to establish any measures needed to prevent harm to the employee, as well as anyone else affected by their work (including other members of the household).
To assist this process, employers can remotely work through a risk assessment with members of staff or ask staff to conduct their own assessment using a template and guidance. Contact us for further information.

2. Create a good workspace

Managing occupational health is critical for a healthy workspace. Poor posture while working, or a lack of suitable equipment, can cause serious musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), including injuries to the back, neck, hips, knees or wrists.
With many workers converting kitchen tables and spare rooms into their new office spaces, there is a significant risk that employees could unwittingly be causing themselves long-term damage through poor seating choices or by not having the right equipment.
To ensure staff are protecting themselves from potential MSDs, employers should try to find out about their staff’s working conditions and check that everyone knows how to set up their workspace. As a minimum, the risk assessment will likely identify that everyone needs carry out a display screen equipment (DSE) check and know how to report any problems.
Search through our previous blogs for DSE information.

3. Encourage activity

As well as sitting correctly, moving is also an important part of maintaining good musculoskeletal health. In the typical office, people are much more likely to have situations where they need to walk around — as part of their commute, to go to a meeting, or to speak to a colleague. Many of these workplace opportunities to stretch the legs have now been lost, so as well as taking breaks from looking at a screen (as required by the DSE Regulations) encourage staff to take a regular breather to get up and move around. Setting a timer on a phone can be a relatively easy way to do this.

4. Create a good routine and balance

Routine is important to help protect mental health and to provide continuity in the working day. Having clear start and finish times helps create work–life boundaries, as can creating a dedicated workspace.
Wherever possible, ask staff to mix up their to-do list to create balance in their work. Spending all day in video conferences can be extremely fatiguing, as can hours in front of a screen with no workplace contact at all. When evaluating new working arrangements, also ask staff to consider how they are finding the new methods of working.

5. Ensure security

Working from home brings additional cyber security issues that organisations may not have considered. The National Cyber Security Centre provides comprehensive advice on what employers might need to think about, but a starting point would be to check that staff:

  • have strong passwords on their accounts
  • know how to use software
  • are using devices that are properly encrypted
  • know what to do to maximise the security of information and what to do if any device becomes lost or stolen.

If the organisation has any e-learning modules that cover cyber security, then consider asking all staff to carry out refresher training.

6. Consider fire safety

House fires are much more likely to occur when people are at home. When considering the home office, ways to prevent fires include:

  • only using laptops on a hard surface to prevent over-heating
  • making sure electrical equipment is turned off at night
  • avoiding “daisy-chaining”: plugging multiple extension leads together
  • not using counterfeit or incorrect chargers for electrical devices.

Employees working from home should also check that they have working smoke alarms that are tested once a week.

7. Support technology

Working from home might mean using new technology. Whereas some may find this an easy transition, others may find it harder. It is commonplace for staff to have previously asked nearby colleagues for help with IT issues, so check in to ask if there are any problems.

8. Improve energy efficiency

Working from home will bring additional costs, e.g. to keep the workspace warm. To help keep energy costs low, organisations could raise awareness of energy efficiency measures that staff can adopt. Some examples might include:

  • turning off standby modes on electrical equipment
  • turning lights off when not in use, and checking that energy-efficient bulbs are fitted
  • only filling the kettle up with as much water as is needed when making a hot drink.

Contact us should you require further information.

Keep safe!

Health & Safety of Sedentary Workers

Sedentary lifestyles are commonplace among office workers, but to make matters worse, a large portion of employees don’t feel encouraged to lead an active lifestyle.

Top Tips on Managing the Health & Safety of Sedentary Workers

Sedentary working increases the risk of developing certain health problems and can have a long-term impact on employees’ psychological wellbeing.

As an employer, you are responsibility for the wellbeing of your employees. Here’s a few guidelines on how you can effectively manage the health & safety of your sedentary workers:

  1. Encourage gentle exercise and walking throughout the day to improve circulation
  2. Ensure any employees that are seated for most of the day take regular breaks
  3. Consider rotating tasks such as filing, photocopying, or even making a coffee
  4. Train key staff on how to use an AED, and how to perform CPR
  5. Get consent to share medical information with relevant managers and first aiders
  6. Encourage all staff to drink water to combat dehydration—this can exacerbate any existing medical conditions, particularly in sedentary roles

Contact us should you require assistance 

Sitting V Standing

Sitting v standing — the risks

The health risks of sedentary work, for example, among office workers who sit in front of computers for the vast majority of their day, have been well documented in recent years.

Prolonged standing at work: the law

According to the HSE, while there is no specific legislation that relates to prolonged standing, the risk to employees’ health and safety from working in a standing position would fall under the general provisions of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and its associated regulations, e.g. the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

The HSE therefore advises that pragmatic controls that consider both seated and standing work are identified through an appropriate risk assessment.

Crucially, the HSE also emphasises the importance of involving and engaging the workforce in the risk assessment process, as staff can provide feedback on their workstation and practices that can lead to pragmatic and sensible adjustments.

How to reduce the risks from standing

Job design is a critical factor in protecting the health of staff who need to stand during their working day. The basic principles of good job design for standing work are as follows.

  • Change working positions frequently so that working in one position is of a reasonably short duration.
  • Avoid extreme bending, stretching and twisting.
  • Pace work appropriately.
  • Allow workers suitable rest periods to relax; exercises may also help.
  • Provide instruction, training and supervision on proper work practices and the use of rest breaks.
  • Allow workers an adjustment period when they return to work after an absence after illness so they can gradually return to a regular work pace.

Specific points to consider could, depending on the type of work, relate to the following:

  • Working tables and benches should be adjustable. If the workstation cannot be adjusted, platforms to raise the shorter worker or pedestals on top of workstations for the tall worker should be considered.
  • Organisation of the work space is another important aspect. There should be enough room to move around and to change body position.
  • Where it is possible, a seat should be provided so that the worker can do the job either sitting or standing.
  • Quality of footwear and type of flooring materials, including anti-fatigue mats, are also major factors contributing to standing comfort.

Workers should go home healthy

The HSE’s current Go Home Healthy campaign is targeting the musculoskeletal health of workers as one of its three key focuses, along with work-related lung diseases and stress.

Employers should be aware that static and fixed postures from prolonged standing can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), along with a range of other health issues.

In the context of the campaign and work involving prolonged standing, an HSE source warned against the pitfalls of starting with appropriate footwear or anti-fatigue matting. Rather, employers are encouraged to:

  • first assess the overall design of the work process
  • reduce the need for fixed, static or awkward postures
  • provide appropriate workstation design features (for example height adjustable stations and appropriate seating)
  • organise the work to include rest breaks or job rotation to avoid muscle fatigue.

Certainly, thereafter, appropriate footwear and matting could also contribute to the overall risk reduction of the work.

Again, employers should rather be moving up the hierarchy of controls to think about the design of the work activity, rather than relying on training alone and the HSE has published advice for employers on how to get the right type of help in this regard.


An HSE source had the following to say about avoiding MSDs for staff who need to spend time working in a standing position:

“Fixed and static postures at work such as prolonged standing can affect workers’ health, making it more likely they will experience leg and lower back pain. It’s important that employers work with their employees to consider pragmatic solutions to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal problems — such as balancing sedentary and active work, rotating jobs, and providing rest breaks, appropriate workstations, and suitable equipment — to help ensure that workers can go home healthy.”

If you require advice, please contact us, Walker Health and Safety Services Limited.


Published · Updated

Are Your Staff Feeling the Heat??

With the recent heat waves, thermal comfort in the workplace is now becoming something of a challenge for many employers. Whilst there is no maximum workplace temperature specified in the UK, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that workplaces shall be maintained at a ‘reasonable’ temperature. What is ‘reasonable’ will depend upon the nature of the work, but according to the HSE, an acceptable level of thermal comfort lies somewhere between 13°C and 30°C.

Workers likely to be most at risk include catering staff, outdoor workers e.g. horticultural workers, maintenance personnel, process workers and employees who must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as breathing apparatus or impermeable clothing. Employees working in offices which do not have air conditioning are also likely to be affected by hot weather.

It is important to continue wearing PPE during extreme temperatures. However, encourage staff to remove them during break times to cool off, sit in the shade or a cool area and drink plenty of fluids, this will help to reduce heat stress. Heat stress is where the body is under stress from over heating. Heat related illnesses include heat cramps or heat stroke, each with its own symptoms and treatments. Symptoms can range from profuse sweating, heat rash, fainting, loss of concentration.

10 Top Tips for Dealing with the Heat

  1. Consult with your employees to establish reasonable levels of thermal comfort for the majority, but accept that you won’t be able to please everybody.
  2. Carry out a risk assessment and identify employees who are most susceptible to heat stress, e.g. pregnant women. Consider altering work patterns to reduce the level of risk by job rotation, working at cooler times of the day. Limit exposure of outdoor workers by providing sunscreen and suitable clothing, e.g. long sleeves and hats.
  3. Modify the working environment by providing mobile air conditioning units, but not oscillating fans, as these simply circulate warm air. Use window blinds or shades to help reduce the effects of heat and solar gain.
  4. Provide more frequent breaks in a cooler environment – the hotter the working environment and more strenuous the work, the more frequent breaks should be.
  5. Ensure a constant supply of drinking water and stress to staff how important it is to maintain hydration at work. Caffeine-based drinks can actually speed up dehydration, as they are diuretic. Coffee also speeds up metabolism, thereby increasing body temperature.
  6. If you have a dress code, consider relaxing it, as it’s better to have productive, casually-dressed employees, than employees who must leave work because they feel unwell.
  7. Ask staff to turn off electrical equipment when leaving the office. Power used to keep items on stand-by is dissipated into the workplace as heat.
  8. Do big print runs and other heat generating jobs in the cooler part of the day.
  9. If office temperatures are unbearable for some, consider allowing them to work from home.
  10. Review PPE provision to see if there is any which is cooler and more comfortable and which can offer the same (or better) level of protection.

Your risk assessment must take into account factors such as temperature to protect your employees, as well as helping you stay on the right side of the law.

If you require advice please contact us.



Published · Updated

Slips and Trips

Slipping and tripping are the most significant causes of major workplace injuries and lost working time, therefore it is certainly sensible to undertake a review of the risks within your premises.

The review process should include the collation of all relevant information based upon:


  • documentation review: manufacturers’ data, risk assessments, accident and near miss reports, and complaints received, housekeeping arrangements etc
  • verbal information: interviewing those who were involved in the recent incident as well as others from previous incidents, or those who have had near misses
  • physical evidence: undertaking an inspection, observations of work activities and further investigation of any flooring and traffic routes within the premises.

In larger workplaces, to undertake an effective review, it may be sensible to divide the premise into smaller areas and undertake a “mapping exercise” to identify any particular matters of concern.

Although aimed at Safety Representatives, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) mapping tool (available at can identify potential hotspots and the potential causes of slips and trips. All relevant data from the documentation review, verbal information and physical information can be used to populate the map of the area under review.

In terms of recommendations, the HSE also has a useful checklist of potential issues and possible action to take in relation to various slip and trip issues.

Contact us if you would like to discuss your options.

Walker Health and Safety.