HEALTH AND Safety Matters, in association with iHASCO, a provider of high-quality health & safety and HR compliance eLearning, conducted a survey with UK health & safety managers to establish the full impact of the government lockdown on staff and employees.
– A total of 96% of employers actively encourage home working
– Childcare is a major issue for employers and staff working from home
– 79% of employers are maintaining health & safety training for homeworkers
– 71% of respondents working from home say productivity has remained the same or has increased
– 84% of respondents are looking to use online courses to continue their professional development
The government’s lockdown response to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers into making tough decisions. While many have had to furlough staff, others have continued working from home in order to minimise the financial impact of the lockdown.
A survey, conducted by HSM and iHASCO, reveals that working from home has been an overall success, primarily due to careful planning – although a number of concerns have been raised with regard to distractions.
Those taking part in the survey range from health & safety managers, consultants, directors and facilities coordinators, to safety officers, operations managers, senior safety practitioners and heads of occupational safety & health.
In response to the government’s lockdown, nearly all survey respondents (96%) actively encourage working at home, and the majority (84%) agree that their organisations have adapted well to remote working. Nevertheless, 5% say that this is not the case, with a further 11% saying they are unsure.
A total of 81% of participants say that working from home is easy to adjust to, but 19% note that there are problems that they had not anticipated. The survey reveals that distractions are the main issue, primarily due to looking after children and juggling home working with home schooling. A total of 33% of respondents say that they have noticed stresses on relationships with partners and children, although the majority (67%) assert that this is not an issue.
Among the problems listed, conference call interruptions are a major concern, while lack of space, poor mobile phone signals, and time management are also key issues.
Nevertheless, a number of respondents said that working from home has made them more productive, with one stating that they are: “quite enjoying the experience.”
The impact of working form home has had minimal impact on productivity, with 45% of respondents working as efficiently and more than a quarter (26%) working even more so. However, when responding to the opportunity to work at home permanently, only 34% say they would be happy to do so, while 45% said no, and 20% remained unsure.
Planning has been key, with the majority of managers having issued guidelines around effective working at home and how to manage related issues. Only a tiny minority (3%) of respondents have not done so.
Similarly, the majority of employers have been issuing guidelines around effective working from home and managing related issues, with only 3% not having done so.
A key issue for homeworkers has been maintaining health & safety training for homeworkers, and the majority of organisations (79%) are still training staff in compliance, while 21% do not believe this is necessary.
The majority of respondents (84%) are looking to use online courses to continue their professional development, while just 16% are not sure – or do not plan to do so.
A number of organisations are working with other businesses still functioning during the lockdown, in a bid to support the community in meeting their regulation requirements.
Strategies range from online training, increased communication with suppliers, auditing, and advice, to procuring PPE, ensuring social distancing, and sharing first-aid and other emergency cover resources with neighbouring businesses.
One respondent observed: “Business needs to link in with local authorities to offer resources and skills that can be redeployed to help vulnerable people.” Another noted: “This is already happening wherever possible. Resident student groups are working with NHS and local services to help provide care in the community.”
A public sector organisation that works with other NDPBs and social workers / police / courts to provide a service in relation to child welfare, added: “We have a legal duty to provide hearings but have had to adapt very quickly to ensure we keep both our staff and visitors safe by training staff on using Skype, or other online meeting software, so the risk of contamination from others is minimised to the lowest level.
“Staff have adapted well, but it has been extremely difficult and challenging for the work we do. Senior management have also had to discuss the legislation with our partners and the Scottish Government to extend timeframes so vulnerable children don’t “slip through the net” or breach timescales for hearings to be heard – for example, annual reviews must normally be completed within a year, but legislation altered to cover pandemic conditions.”
One business, which provides advice and guidance to its membership base, is providing information supplied from government on a regular basis. The company’s representative asserted: “We are attending regular conference call meetings to keep informed of the latest information for sites to be operational.”
However, another participant said that it should be the government’s responsibility to support industry interaction, stating: “Organisations themselves can only sell credit services to jump start their cashflow when the lockdown is over. Until then, it’s up to the government to share the profits made by the critical industries to those industries that make the critical ones possible in the long run.”
Relevant training resources
When asked which training courses would be most suitable for staff in the current climate, respondents listed the need for a broad range of resources, primarily relating to stress management and mental wellbeing. However, the need for additional training courses included:
- IOSH Managing Safety
- Correct use of PPE
- Lone working
- Risk assessment
- Working from home COVID-19 awareness
- DSE awareness
- Specific sales ordering and recording, telesales, customer services, problem solving
- How to manage stress levels
- Social distancing techniques
- Personal hygiene
- Behavioural safety
- General health and safety.
One organisation currently has a robust e-learning system with six mandatory health & safety courses, as well as training courses on information governance and cyber security. The health & safety manager asserted: “A homeworking course which acknowledges the fact organisations are unable to provide suitable and sufficient equipment under the DSE regulations would be good!
“Asking staff to complete an online DSE risk assessment, then not being able to undertake a follow-up (in-situ assessment), or provide staff with a new chair is an utter waste of time. It would be better with a more realistic checklist and guidance on how to “make do” with what you have under the circumstances, as organisations might not have the resources – nor funds – to procure multiple pieces of equipment under the correct lockdown situation!”
During the lockdown, many respondents are using resources provided by iHasco, with one noting: “I am happy with the iHasco package and that it meets our needs.” A health & safety manager added: “We are using iHASCO courses – H&S basics, stress awareness, and DSE,” while a business MD concluded: “All ihasco courses sent are DSE, lone working, risk assessment and mental health.”