Following the COVID pandemic, many workplaces have been forced to change the way that their office functions. As a result, the future working landscape appears to be a more hybrid, flexible model of working both in the office and from home. As an employer, it is often beneficial to be able to offer your employees the option of both, but how can you ensure your workplace is still compliant with health and safety regulations with workers choosing if and when they work in your office?
1. Fire Safety
How many fire wardens an office needs will depend on the size of the business, how likely a fire will occur and how damaging a fire could be if it did. Generally, for more high risk workplaces one fire warden is required for every 15 members of staff. For lower risk workspaces or those with 50 or less employees, one fire warden is often sufficient. If your appointed fire wardens are working from home more often, you may want to train more staff in the fire warden role to ensure sufficient coverage. Employers should therefore think about whether their risk assessments are up to date and if refresher training is required for those that have been out of the office for a period of time, for example, reminders to staff on the use of stairways and evacuation methods in the event of a fire alarm.
2. First Aiders
The requirement for first aiders will also depend on the size and level of risk of your workplace. As a minimum requirement, you should have an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements. Increasing the number of trained first aiders or appointed persons in the office will also help to ensure sufficient cover where your appointed first aiders might be working from home a few days a week. The HSE website suggestswhere first aid cover is reduced, it may be possible to have shared first aiders - particularly where your office building space might be shared with other businesses. If there are fewer workers in the office, there may be reduced first aid cover required.
3. Keeping a Rota or Schedule
In order to properly gauge the number of first aiders and fire wardens required, you should have a system in place to know how many workers will be in the office on any day. A rota or schedule is a good way to ensure coverage while also seeing at a glance who your fire wardens or first aiders are if something should happen.
Communication with employees is key to ensuring everyone understands what is required of them when they are working in the office. Of course, this extends past the office to those working from home. Being away from the office may increase an employee's risk of anxiety, stress or burn out. Setting up regular meetings or phone calls with line managers will keep open lines of communication with those not physically in the office and avoid home workers from feeling isolated.
5. Risk Assessments
As workplaces evolve past the office and into homes, you should also have a flexible mind as to how to best keep your office compliant. The first point is often to check your risk assessment is up to date and make sure it is adaptable to reflect your own work practices.
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