Monthly Archives: March 2014

Work in the modern office

With new technological developments, high building rents, and a growing diversity in workers, increasingly businesses are finding new and innovative approaches to work. These include using your own device at work and flexible working processes such as homeworking.

Bring your own device to work

Bring your own device (BYOD) is a relatively new and increasingly popular workplace practice, where companies offer staff the opportunity to use their own devices at work. These devices include laptops, notebooks, tablets and smartphones.

Employees are often more familiar with their own devices and these are likely to be newer and more technologically advanced than those provided at work. For employers, the main advantage of BYOD is the potential to reduce their capital expenditure on IT equipment. In some of the firms where BYOD is common practice, employees use their own devices and the employer provides software enabling them to work securely from a virtual desktop.

The benefits of establishing a BYOD policy include:

  • giving staff the flexibility of when and where they work (eg flexible working, working while commuting)
  • motivating employees by giving them a choice over their work equipment
  • empowering staff to take ownership of their work equipment (eg organising any warranty/repair agreements when they purchase their BYOD).

Modern devices, such as tablets and smartphones offer increased flexibility, with the ability to access emails and information outside of normal business hours and while away from the office. For employees who travel for work, the flexibility that BYOD offers can help them be more productive.

Like most good ideas, there are downsides to implementing a BYOD policy. The increased flexibility of being able to work outside of normal business hours brings additional health risks (ie increased stress due to not being able to “turn off” work), which senior staff will need to carefully manage.

For many employers, the primary concern is data security. If your organisation is considering BYOD, then you may need to look at where information is saved (eg on servers or devices), if anyone else apart from your employees access the BYOD devices (eg do family members share a tablet or home computer?) and what happens when devices are lost or stolen. Some organisations have implemented software that can remotely wipe records if a device is lost or stolen.

The introduction of new equipment can also present new risks, which employers need to assess and manage. Laptops, notebooks and tablets are all forms of display screen equipment (DSE) and as such, fall under Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. Under this legislation employers must assess the risks and provide employees with information about any risks. This legal duty applies to any devices used for work; including employees’ own devices.

If your organisation has not yet used some of these new devices (eg tablets, smartphones), then there are a couple of points you may need to take into account.

  • Employees who are unfamiliar with new technology may need training.
  • Employees will need to be provided with information on the risks of a new way of working (eg “iPad neck”, repetitive actions, poor posture).
  • The practicalities of whether BYOD is suitable for your organisation should be checked (eg are the devices easy to transport between meetings and are there enough plug sockets in the office for the new equipment?).
  • The organisation’s DSE assessments must be reviewed.
  • Procedures for testing electrical equipment (ie PAT testing) should incorporate any new devices that are introduced into the workplace.

Working from home

Home workers are covered by health and safety legislation in the same way as employees in offices. While working from home offers employees and employers many benefits, organisations have a duty of care to look after their staff, even if they are working from the comfort of their own home. These duties include:

  • ensuring they have a suitable place to work (eg suitable lighting and furniture)
  • ensuring that all work equipment is maintained in a safe condition
  • undertaking DSE assessments

DSE assessments can be used to check the suitability of an employee’s home workspace and identify any actions. Where employees only have a sofa or dining room table to work from, a suitable desk and office chair (eg with five caster wheels and adjustable back support) may be required before they can safely work from home. If additional furniture or equipment is required before an employee can safely work from home, then it is important to discuss any actions with the employee to check whether they are practical and suitable.

When discussing home working it is important to consider how any equipment will be provided and maintained. Any electrical equipment (eg laptops, printers) will need to be regularly inspected.

If working from home is feasible, then there are many benefits for both employers and employees. These include:

  • saving time and money spent commuting
  • giving employees flexibility over their work
  • reducing the headcount in the office saving on office overheads


In the modern office it is easy to see how BYOD and working from home could complement each other and offer a range of benefits to employers and employees. However, not all organisations are the same, so the pros and cons of any new approach need to be weighed up. If your organisation is considering any of these modern approaches, then it is important to talk to employees, plan ahead and carefully manage any changes in the workplace. There should also be time allocated to review the impact of these changes to see if lessons can be learned and whether further adjustments need to be made.


Adjustment of seating in the vehicle

Vehicles have become work places for some employees. In order to avoid repetitive driver injury, drivers should be trained to adjust their car seats properly. A suggested sequence of adjustments is as follows. (Some areas may not be applicable depending on the vehicle)

  • Raise the seat as high as is comfortable to improve vision of the road.
  • Check there is adequate clearance from the roof.
  • Ensure there is maximum vision of the road.
  • Move the seat forwards until it is possible to easily fully depress the clutch pedal and accelerator pedal.
  • Adjust seat height as necessary to give good pedal control.
  • Adjust the cushion tilt angle so that thighs are supported along the length of the cushion.
  • Avoid pressure behind the knee.
  • Adjust the back rest so it provides continuous support along the length of the back and is in contact up to shoulder height — approximately 30° reclined from vertical.
  • Avoid reclining the seat too far as this can cause excessive forward bending of the head and neck, and may result in sliding forwards on the cushion.
  • Adjust the lumbar support to give even pressure along the length of the back rest.
  • Ensure lumbar support “fits” the back and is comfortable, with no pressure points or gaps.
  • Adjust the steering wheel rearwards and downwards for easy reach.
  • Check for clearance for thighs/knees when using pedals.
  • Ensure display panel is in full view and not obstructed.
  • Adjust the head restraint to ensure the risk of injury is reduced in the event of a car accident.

If employees have a problem with the seating in their vehicles ask them to discuss it with their manager.

If you require assistance, please contact us.


Electronic Cigarettes in the Workplace

Are Electronic Cigarettes Legal at work?

An Electronic cigarette or e cigarette does not contain tobacco or produce passive smoke. Passive smoke generated from tobacco cigarettes and cigars is the prime concern of the smoking ban because non-smokers are forced to inhale tobacco smoke without choice.

The electronic cigarette is not governed by the smoking ban or restricted by tobacco laws due to the cigarette construction and contents.

In terms of the law, it is perfectly legal to ‘smoke’ or vape electronic cigarettes in nightclubs, restaurants, cinemas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, buses and just about anywhere.

Smoking at Work

Tobacco smoking in the workplace is restricted and the law enforced by the Health Act which bans customers, members of staff, consultants and visitors from smoking in public places and on their premises.

The Health Act does not affect the use of electronic cigarettes. Using an e cigarette is not classified as ‘Smoking’ as nothing is burned, but is termed ‘vaping’ just like a regular nicotine inhaler with the added benefit of the ability to inhale a realistic cigarette tasting, visible vapour. Legally, people are permitted to use an electronic cigarette in the workplace including work vehicles and offices.

However, if consuming food or drink in the work area is not allowed and depending on the type of occupation, an employer may not approve the use of electronic cigarettes while working or carrying out certain tasks.

It will be up to employers to determine when and where this device is used, there may be some opposition from members of staff, particularly in relation to the potential health effects as a mist is produced when used, although there is no evidence to suggest that the mist is likely to affect anyone.

Consider discussing this topic with members of staff as some may be uncomfortable with the device, such as pregnant women.

If you need further advice please contact us.


Race for Life

Every year I take place in the race for life. I have done so for 9 years. At first I began doing it to help support people who live with cancer by raising money.

Over time people close to me started getting cancer, some have even passed away. So now I feel obligated to continue doing the events and raising money for loved ones still here in the hope that they find a cure.

I apologise in advance for my shameless self promotion on the health and safety blogging page.

Please follow this link and sponsor me online – it’s quick, easy and totally secure.


Risk Assessments

Risk assessments are an important part of the health and safety management system.

Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to assess the risks to their employees while they are at work. They also need to consider the risks to non-employees such as contractors and the public. The self-employed have a similar duty.

Where there are five or more employees, the significant findings of the assessment must be recorded.

Specific risk assessments must be carried out for young workers, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Sometimes there will be the need to consider other regulations which also require risk assessment, such as those dealing with asbestos, ionising radiation and hazardous chemicals.

Top Tips for Effective Risk Assessment

To do a risk assessment, you need to understand what, in your business, might cause harm and decide whether you are doing enough to prevent that harm. Once you have decided that, you need to identify and prioritise putting in place appropriate and sensible control measures.

Start by carrying out the 5 steps to successful risk assessments:

  • Identifying what can harm people in your workplace
  • Identifying who might be harmed and how
  • Evaluating the risks and deciding on the appropriate controls, taking into account the controls you already have in place
  • Recording your risk assessment
  • Reviewing and updating your assessment.

Top tips:

  • Make sure that those who perform risk assessments have been trained. This is essential if the results are to be meaningful and accurate. Using a team of people to do the assessments – involving managers, staff representatives and those doing the work – is often an effective approach.
  • Make sure that the resources used and the level of detail is in proportion with the risk. Trivial risks can be ignored and don’t spend all your time on low-risk issues.
  • Be sensible about what you record following risk assessment. Keep records simple and sensible.
  • Make sure that those doing the work are involved in the risk assessment and that they know how to protect themselves. This is the true test of whether the assessment process is effective.

Risk assessment is not a paperwork exercise; it’s about protecting your staff.

Review your risk assessment policies and procedures now.

If you need support contact us!


Violence in the Workplace

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related violence as:

Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work

This can include verbal abuse or threats as well as physical attacks.

In 60% of cases of workplace violence, strangers were the offenders. Among incidents where the offender was known, the offenders were most likely to be clients or a member of the public known through work.

Victims of actual or threatened violence at work said that the offender was under the influence of alcohol in 38% of incidents, and under the influence of drugs in 26% of incidents.

If there is a possibility of your staff suffering from an act of violence then this must be included in your risk assessments, in line with the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

If there is a risk, you must introduce measures to protect your staff. This may include policies and procedures on violence. You also need to make sure that your staff know what to do if they are faced with violence.

Jobs may need redesigning to minimise the risk of violence. In some cases, you may need to use measures such CCTV monitoring, physical barriers and personal alarms.

Staff who feel threatened at work are likely to be absent on a regular basis and may be stressed. If they are assaulted, you may be faced with an expensive civil claim or even a fine from the Courts following prosecution.

Legal requirements

Health and safety law applies to risks from violence, just as it does to other risks from work. The main pieces of relevant legislation are:

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act)
    Employers have a legal duty under this Act to ensure, so far as it is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees.
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
    Employers must consider the risks to employees (including the risk of reasonably foreseeable violence); decide how significant these risks are; decide what to do to prevent or control the risks; and develop a clear management plan to achieve this.
  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)
    Employers must notify their enforcing authority in the event of an accident at work to any employee resulting in death, major injury, on incapacity for normal work for three or more days. This includes any act of non-consensual physical violence done to a person at work.
  • Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (a) and The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (b)
    Employers must inform, and consult with, employees in good time on matters relating to their health and safety. Employee representatives, either appointed by recognised trade unions under (a) or elected under (b) may make representations to their employer on matters affecting the health and safety of those they represent.

Contact us if you require any advice!