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Your questions answered - September 2022

14 September 2022

Each issue, British Safety Council will be using this page to answer YOUR questions. Please send any problems, issues or general enquiries about health, safety and wellbeing to policy@britsafe.org and their experts will respond in future issues.

Q: I require a piece of equipment for working at home that I wouldn’t normally need if I was in the office. It is essential for my work. Can I ask my employer to pay for it?

Yes, if a piece of equipment is needed for home working, then your employer is legally required to pay for it. The Health and Safety Executive’s guidance for home working sets out that your employer has a responsibility to provide necessary resources if you do not already possess them, including a laptop or computer. They are also to ensure that any equipment provided by them is safe and secure, and to recognise and limit any health and safety risks that could occur from using them - such as posture related health issues. There are clear DSE regulations that set out your employer’s responsibilities in this regard.

Q: As someone expecting my first baby, I feel unprepared for how to adapt at work. Are there any recommended changes I should consider and precautions I should take? And is there anything that my employer is responsible for with regards to this?

Clearly circumstances will vary from person to person, so we can only offer solutions to potential problems. You should always make your employer aware of your pregnancy, as well as any particular difficulties you are facing, and in turn they have a duty to accommodate you. 

Your employer is required to risk assess your work and make accommodations for your pregnancy. They are required to make adjustments for you, and give you frequent breaks if needed. They have a legal responsibility with regards to your safety and health. 

If you are doing manual or physically active work, your role may need to be reviewed and risk assessed. You may find it difficult to stand for long periods of time and experience back pain, swollen ankles, or general tiredness. So, it is a good idea to work seated as much as possible, in a chair which supports you properly. Working in teams may help. In workplaces where some physical activity is unavoidable, like nursing, you can ask to focus on administrative work. It is important to flag any potential issue before it becomes a problem. 

While it may feel embarrassing or like you are inconveniencing others, it is absolutely vital that you do not remain silent about any concerns you have or difficulties you face. Your health is more important.

Q: I am considering transitioning to working from home full-time. Are there any recommendations you have to try and make sure my workspace at home is as safe and sensible for this purpose as possible?

There are many common pitfalls to avoid and easy steps you can take to minimise any risk, though you should also be aware that your employer does have a duty to include you as a home worker in their risk assessment, and so they are partially responsible for ensuring you have a safe working environment. It is a good idea to address particular questions to them.

Nonetheless, there are still some key steps to take. Check for any damage to sockets, plugs and leads, and that any extension cables are not overloaded. Try to minimise the risks of slips and trips by keeping your work area clear of obstructions, spillages and trailing wires. Ttry and ensure your work environment enables you sit comfortably for long periods of time, as poor posture can cause many health issues, and take regular breaks (every 20 minutes). You should also make sure that your employer and colleagues have any emergency contact numbers and details.

Don’t forget to submit YOUR questions to policy@britsafe.org