Maintaining health and safety in the workplace when you are in a controlled and monitored environment can be achieved through routine checks and inspections by the team you have in place.
Doing the same for workers who are working in away from the main place of work, either because the are working from home, or working on site, is more challenging.
There are three key approaches to take when carrying out risk assessments for employees who are working remotely to ensure that the systems you put in place guarantee the health and safety of your workers, and help them to perform productively and professionally for your company. These three areas are:
The more you know and understand the type of work and the nature of the location in which your remote workforce is going to be operating, the more you can put into place measures that will mitigate any harmful risks.
For example, is there adequate provision of food and water supplies? Are their reasonable hygiene facilities? Will the employee be working on their own for long period of times or are they part of a team? Is the work on a shift basis? Have all potential hazards been identified, and any risk eliminated or adequately controlled? Is the employee kitted out with enough equipment and have they received sufficient training to ensure that they work to strict safety guidelines? Does the equipment undergo regular maintenance protocols.
Ultimately risk assessments need to be taken to highlight any health and safety gaps in the following: fatigue, hygiene, task duration, weather, food, water, equipment.
Once these issues have been worked through, the next area to assess is ‘Communication’.
This is probably one are that needs to be absolutely failsafe for remote workers. Depending on the nature of the job, it is often the one area that links a remote working team to the headquarters, and could be fundamental to their safety.
First of all, the equipment needs to be robust and durable enough to withstand being out and about. Any remote worker technology must be fitted with intrinsically safe batteries to protect the health and safety of the workforce in potentially hazardous environments where there is a risk of explosion.
Emphasis must be placed on this when carrying out risk assessments. Any equipment, particularly if it is used to communicate the operations between the remote location and HQ, are vital tools of productivity, as well as safety lines between the two. Therefore systems must be put in place to ensure their risk free operation at all times.
And secondly, those lines of communication must be kept open at all times, not just for operational reasons but also for the reassurance and wellbeing of your remote workforce. Out if sight must not mean out of mind, and you need to build in channels of communication to ensure that you check in regularly with remote workers, checking up on their welfare, on their emotional and physical wellbeing, and making sure that they feel involved and valued as part of the company as a whole.
Finally, the third element is ‘Consideration’. The definition of consideration is: careful thought, typically over a period of time; a fact or motive taken into account in deciding something; thoughtfulness and sensitivity towards others.
All these varying definitions fit the bill when taking your remote workers into consideration. They need to be considered when making short and long term business decision. Their wellbeing needs to be taken into account. And they need to be treated with thoughtfulness and sensitivity. Out in the field they are often doing the tougher and dirtier jobs. Reward them accordingly.