H&S workplace considerations for flexible working arrangements

Due to the pandemic, a considerable number of businesses have changed how they allow their employees to work. Many employers have seen the benefits of introducing hybrid or flexible working models, where time is shared between the workplace and home.

Whilst there are advantages of employees choosing when they come into the workplace, there are several important safety implications to consider.

One critical factor to consider is if an emergency occurs in your workplace, who will be there to handle it? Flexible working arrangements may see your first aid or fire warden qualified employees working from home when you need them.

So, how do you ensure this doesn’t happen?

Firstly, you need to check the number of first aiders and fire wardens to ensure you have a sufficient level of each for the number of staff you have. Take note of the days they work on the premises, ensure you have coverage during all regular working hours, and account for holiday and sickness periods.

If there are enough, the solution may be as simple as drawing up a rota to guarantee cover. If you can’t cover regular working hours, you may need to re-evaluate how many first aiders and fire wardens you have or the hours employees attend the workplace.

It may be possible to share first aid arrangements where businesses share buildings, but this will require more planning as there might be conflicting schedules to deal with. In addition, you may likely need to train more fire wardens when sharing responsibility with other businesses to account for a more significant number of people during a potential evacuation. Depending on the cover needed, further training might also include additional mental health first aiders and teaching more employees how to use evacuation chairs safely.

While this covers employees with a regular flexible working schedule, employers should not forget about members of staff who may have been working remotely for extended periods.

It’s easy to overlook minor details when you’ve been away. Employees re-entering the workplace after an extended time away may need a refresher on workplace health and safety policy and procedures. Screensavers or visible posters may also help to remind staff of crucial H&S information when they’re on site.

You may find that regular fire drills can help ensure employees don’t forget the critical details of your emergency evacuation procedures. Routine drills can also give practical experience to fire wardens and employees trained to use evacuation chairs safely.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health and safety. Employers should review their risk assessments and procedures and make any necessary changes to meet the challenges of the new normal.

If you have any questions or are looking for more advice, our health and safety team is here to help.

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