Employers should consider doing online ergonomic assessments of an employee’s home workspace through video calls or through the use of other technology platforms in order to make sure that the workspace is set up correctly.
In the current circumstances (COVID-19) the employer may adopt a two stage approach to the ergonomic risk assessment process:
The employer engages with their employees who are working from home and sends out a Remote Work questionnaire to employees. Employees will need to complete the questionnaire. The completed questionnaire should capture information such as the type of equipment needed by each employee for their home workspace and information on whether or not the employee has any musculoskeletal discomfort such as neck or wrist discomfort. The employer needs to follow up and address any issues identified in the completed questionnaire.
The employer should consider including the following questions in the Remote Work questionnaire, however, this is not an exhaustive list of questions.
- Does the employee have a keyboard, mouse and separate monitor connected to their laptop?
- Is the employee’s workspace set up to allow the employee to view the monitor at a height which avoids bending of the neck for sustained periods of time?
- Does the employee have access to other suitable accessories such as laptop stands which allow the laptop to be connected to the keyboard and positioned at a suitable height?
- Does the employee take regular short breaks from sitting by standing up and moving about for 1-2 minutes every thirty minutes?
- Is the employee’s workspace set up to allow space in front of the keyboard to provide support for the hands and the arms?
- Does the employee have a chair that is adjustable in height?
- Does the employee have a chair that has a back rest that is adjustable in height and tilt?
- Does the employee have any back support on their chair (for example a back rest or cushion)?
- Is there adequate lighting to allow comfortable working?
- Is the employee experiencing any musculoskeletal discomfort?
After the initial issues have been addressed at stage 1 including the provision of equipment for the home workspace, the employer needs to plan for the completion of online ergonomic risk assessments for all employees who are remote working.
This can be done by video calls or through the use of other technology platforms in order to make sure that the workspace is set up correctly. It is reasonable to carry out the online ergonomic risk assessments over a phased time period and priority should be given to those employees who have reported musculoskeletal discomfort. The ergonomic risk assessment needs to take account of the following:
employee’s posture, level of intensity of keyboard/mouse work, freedom of movement
information on the general environment at the workspace including set-up of the equipment and the lighting environment including potential sources of glare
information on the nature of the employee’s work at the computer.
The employer needs to record any specific issues identified at an employee’s home workspace and agree on corrective actions with the employee. Once any corrective actions are addressed there should be sign off by the employer and employee.
If the employer makes any changes to an employee’s workspace at home they need to take account of public health guidance.