We live in uncertain times, as the coronavirus spreads around the globe. For employers, this raises many questions. It should go without saying that the most important thing in this crisis is to protect sick people suffering from Covid-19. They must be allowed time to recover, and not feel under pressure to return to work too soon. But many people are still well enough to work, especially when they display no symptoms and are self-isolating. As we move into the delay phase of containing this outbreak, more and more workers will be encouraged to work at home where possible. The main question then becomes: how can employers ensure their workers’ safety, health and wellbeing when they work at home?
We want to take stock of health and safety for lone workers at home in the face of Covid-19. Of course, these two strands are intricately connected; you can’t have health without safety, and vice versa. But as far as we can distinguish between them, we’re focusing first on safety in this blog. We’ll be looking in more detail at health and wellbeing for lone workers at home next time.
The latest on Covid-19 and the spread of coronavirus
The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced yesterday that Covid-19 is now classed as a global pandemic. More radical action is being taken in many countries to contain the spread of coronavirus. Most starkly, President Trump has banned all flights between the USA and Europe. Here in the UK, the situation is escalating daily too. Today, the government is expected to step up plans to move to the ‘delay’ phase of combatting the disease. As of 12 March, there are 596 confirmed cases of the disease in the UK, which has sadly led to ten deaths.
The UK government has issued clear guidance for employers and workplaces; the version current as of 12 March is attached here. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19
One element is what action to take if someone has tested positive for Covid-19 in a workplace. At this stage of containment, closure of the workplace is not recommended. Local Health Protection Teams will contact the management team of the office or workplace to discuss individual cases. In the UK, these teams are part of devolved health bodies (e.g. Public Health England, Health Protection Scotland, Public Health Wales). They’ll identify people who have been in contact with the infected person and advise on what actions or precautions to take. This may include self-isolation and working from home.
Contact tracing may mean lone workers need to start working at home
Many lone workers not based in a regular location such as an office, particularly if they visit clients in their homes or other settings. For such lone workers, they’re more reliant on the actions of their clients and contacts to follow good hygiene practice. Furthermore, it may not be so clear when they’ve come into contact with an infected person. At this stage, with contact tracing, they may be approached by public health officials and advised on the actions to take.
Even when lone workers don’t have symptoms, employers must be proactive in regularly checking in to provide lone worker safety. Ensuring that they follow current official advice on such measures as hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette is certainly a start. If necessary, such lone working employees may also need to change their work patterns to work from home. For instance, they might take advantage of communications technology such as video conferencing to be in touch with clients.
How Safe Hub helps lone workers at home
Working from home may be a novelty for many who are self-isolating, whether they’re usually office-based or already work alone. Employers may not have had a chance to run through health and safety policy and procedures, let alone conduct a risk assessment of the home as workplace. This could put both the lone worker and their employer at risk. For instance, if their worker slips, trips or falls when they’re engaging in work, a company could find themselves liable for any injury.
Safe Hub has the solution, with its range of lone worker safety features available for smartphones and other devices. With Red Alert, lone workers at home can summon emergency help at the touch of a screen or the press of a button. Worker Down addresses situations where a worker has slipped, tripped or fallen, with reactive help even if they’re incapacitated or unconscious. And with Safe Check, the lone worker at home can respond to automated prompts to confirm their welfare.
Another useful feature for lone workers at home is Group Alert. They may be using less than reliable media as a main source of information, so employers need to get consistent messages out. By sending a Group Alert message, employers can target particular groups of lone workers by job function, department or geographical location. Rather than send an e-mail that may be overlooked, this message is broadcast directly to a worker’s phone on the Safe Hub smartphone app.
Safe Hub steps up to tackle the effects of Covid-19
In light of the spread of the coronavirus and the increased risk of Covid-19, we have a special offer for existing customers. We’re offering a low-cost, zero-contract upgrade for the Safe Hub App to cover all new home workers. This means that, for lone workers at home using the smartphone version of the app, they’ll have access to all Safe Hub’s safety features. And we have versions of the app with more limited functionality for standard mobile phones, laptops and desktops too.
In our next blog, we’ll be looking at more practical steps to improve the health and wellbeing of lone workers at home. But in the meantime, why not take advantage of our special offer, to improve the safety of lone workers at home. #Coronavirus #Covid19 #LowestTotalCost #LoneWorkerSafety #HealthAndSafety
To find about more about our special offer on health and safety protection for lone workers at home, contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today
Post by George Stavrinidis
George is Chief Executive Officer of Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He believes passionately that everyone should be protected and supported at work. George supports LWS clients to make sure they enjoy the most effective relationship with the team and maximise the effectiveness of their deployment of Safe Hub.