Irrespective of the regularity of an employee’s WFH requirements, by now they will hopefully have created or at least be starting to create, a quality WFH zone within a designated area of the home. An area that inspires productivity, creativity and focus, all key ingredients that contribute towards a healthy and happy workforce.
As regular readers will know, we have been extoling the virtues of quality WFH set ups over the past few months, as investing some time and money into a holistic approach for those remote working for even just one day a week, can reap real dividends. As an interim measure over the past year, many organisations may have furnished employees with WFH elements that go some way to delivering this environment, such as a laptop or PC, a new or 2nd hand chair and maybe advice on what lighting they should consider. As time has passed however, it has become apparent that for many organisations, this ‘interim’ WFH measure, is likely to form part of the new working structure going forward.
As we emerge from these restricted times and organisations large and small hopefully become increasingly busy, the focus will likely shift towards how best to grow the business again and the attention on employee’s home working set up will diminish as a result. An action that could have significant adverse consequences.
Does DSE Compliance Matter When WFH?
Over recent years, most employees in conventional office environments have become very aware of the need for the employer to consider their workstation setup Health & Safety requirements but within the WFH environment, it is not something they have necessarily considered. Equally for the employer, it is a requirement they are either unaware of their responsibility for, are going to get round to or don’t feel is relevant to their organisation.
Unfortunately, the fact is that it is their obligation.
- undertake DSE workstation assessments
- reduce identified risks, including making sure that users take regular breaks
- provide eye tests or reimbursement for eye tests
- provide associated training and information
One very specific and key requirement is the need for employers to comply with The Health and Safety Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992 (plus regulation amendments 2002). Under this regulation, an employer has the same Health & Safety responsibilities for its employees irrespective of their work location. So, whether WFH on a part or full time basis, the same regulations need meeting.
It is worth noting also, that with potential downsizing of office space and the introduction of hybrid WFH and conventional office working, the practise of hot-desking is likely to increase. The impact of this should also be considered for review, as each employee’s DSE requirements are likely to differ.
Under this regulation, if a worker uses Display Screen Equipment (DSE) like laptops, PCs, tablets and mobile phones daily as part of their normal work and continuously for one hour or more, the employer must carry out a DSE workstation assessment.
Within this assessment, the employer should consider:
- the whole workstation set up, including;
o Equipment (screens, keyboards and mice)
o Furniture (desks, chairs)
o Work conditions (lighting, location, heating, ventilation)
- the employee’s job role
- any special employee requirements e.g. disability needs
Where risks are identified, the employer should then take necessary steps to mitigate them.
The key reasons for the regulations are that incorrect use of DSE or poorly designed workstations or work environments, can lead to employees experiencing significant musculoskeletal injuries and symptoms in the neck, shoulders, backs, arms, wrists and hands (Work Related Upper Limb Disorders WRULD) as well as fatigue, stress and eye strain. The medium to long term effect of such issues is increased sickness, absenteeism, reduced productivity and unfortunately in some cases, employee litigation and claims.
Discomfort from poor workstation set up often isn’t instant and can take some time to materialise, developing through repetitious actions, excessive force and poor posture, effects caused by poor design of workstations (and associated equipment such as chairs), insufficient space, lack of training or not taking breaks from display screen work. Therefore, a DSE assessment should be undertaken whenever an employee:
- sets up a new workstation
- makes substantial changes to an existing workstation
- complains of associated pain or discomfort
It is important that this requirement is relayed to them and that consideration is given to the implications of an employee not having a regular designated work from home area. The need to assist them with creating the perfect WFH zone becomes even more important.
As with all regulation compliance, there is always an associated investment in time and cost and DSE compliance is no exception, particularly when it comes to WFH. Whether an organisation has one or multiple employees, it is important to establish what the most efficient means of undertaking the following is:
a) understanding the regulatory requirements
b) assessing employees individual WFH set ups
c) reporting on the findings
d) making recommendations
e) maintaining ongoing records
The Courts awarded £98k to a Senior Admin Officer due to a workplace injury of tendonitis. They found a council in breach of DSE Regulations 1, 2 and 4 [UNISON national health and safety seminar 2017]
DSE Regulatory Compliance Solutions
To comply with the DSE regulatory obligations, an appropriately qualified individual or team is required to undertake DSE Assessments of each employees WFH workstation set up. These assessors can either be inhouse employees of the organisation or 3rd party suppliers.
For an inhouse employee to undertake assessments, they will require training. This can be accomplished by designated employees receiving training from a 3rd party Health & Safety company that will equip them with the basic skills and knowledge to undertake DSE Assessments, keep records and identify potential solutions for each assessed employee’s WFH workstation.
Each training company is structured differently but in principle, an instructor takes a classroom style practical course at the client’s premises or an alternative location. Due to the need to change delivery methods over the past year, some training companies have also adopted a virtual classroom option.
Following full training, an organisation will then have its own inhouse DSE Assessors to conduct assessments of employee’s WFH (and in office) DSE environment, compile reports and make recommendations.
Regarding 3rd party suppliers, there are a significant number available that service the DSE market and each can offer a range of different options for organisations to fulfil their DSE regulatory obligations. The decision on which option to take will be based on a range of elements, not least the organisation’s size and structure, the complexity of employee WFH arrangements and available budget. Some considerations include:
Self Assessments - An organisation purchases online DSE Assessment licences for its WFH employees and sends them an online link. The employee completes an online checklist and the results recorded for a designated person within the organisation to review, assess and make recommendations on any required changes. The employee is then walked through their assessment to ensure they understand any identified risks and what actions may be required.
Virtual Assessments - Whilst some suppliers offered this option previously, it has grown considerably over the last year to meet the huge demand for assessing employee’s workstation set ups whilst WFH. Employees receives remote bespoke one-to-one DSE coaching on their WFH set up, along with practical DSE adjustments, written assessments and recommendations. The employer receives duplicate copies of all assessments for their records.
Advanced Virtual Assessments - By combining Artificial Intelligence (AI) and webcam technology, some suppliers can provide a far more in-depth analysis of an employee’s DSE set up. The employee is invited to complete a questionnaire relating to workstation set up, pain points and working behaviour and then using AI and a linked webcam, the employee’s posture, positioning and ergonomics are mapped.
Face to Face Assessments - During face to face assessments, employees receives bespoke one-to-one DSE coaching on their WFH set up, along with practical DSE adjustments, written assessments and recommendations. The employer receives duplicate copies of all assessments for their records. Under current restrictions, this option may not be many organisation preferred option but any quality provider of WFH face to face DSE assessments will have all necessary precautions covered.
Each of these options have their own merits. For some organisations, it is just about regulation compliance, whereas for others, it is so much more. The importance of not only meeting The Health and Safety Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992 but also actively delivering fully integrated DSE solutions that bring significant health and wellbeing benefits to the employee. Just because they are out of sight, does not mean they are out of mind.
In summary, irrespective of whether an employee will be WFH fulltime or on a hybrid basis in 2021 and beyond, it is incumbent on the employer to ensure their home DSE set up is assessed and legally compliant. By doing so and undertaking any necessary remedial action, they will help to create a more engaged, healthier, happier and productive workforce.
The WFH Zone is the UK’s first online portal designed to assist organisations in the process of setting employees up to work from home in the most cost effective and ethical way. Our service provides a filter and search facility that helps employers and employees find quality suppliers of a range of Services and Products specifically associated with a work from home zone.
Fact: Only 26% of 18-34 year olds have a desk and chair with backrest compared to 30% of 35-54 and 33% of 55+…when WFH [Opinium Research between 24-27 April 2020