It has often been said that more accidents happen in the home than anywhere else – and this is more than a passing observation. According to the RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) website, around 6,000 people die through accidents at home each year: with the leading cause being falling from height or at ground level.
With a considerable amount of the workforce working from home at the moment, you might think that household accidents could increase. However, very few work tasks would involve working at height, and falls are more likely to occur at ground level. For example, tripping over a temporary extension lead run across the floor to supply the works laptop or avoiding disregarded children’s toys and games of hide and seek.
Homeworking & RIDDOR
Working from home is still working. As such, the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and all the subordinate legislation, including the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases or Dangerous Occurrence Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) still apply. The employer is required to ensure the health safety and welfare of their employees as far as is reasonably practicable – wherever they are working.
As an employer, you have the same health and safety obligations for homeworkers as for any other workers – and for most organisations that responsibility has significantly increased over the past few weeks. Some considerations when someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, include:
- How are you going to keep in touch with them?
- What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
- Is it safe for them to do the required work at home?
- Do you need to put additional control measures in place to protect them?
- Are there any ‘lone-working working without supervision’ issues to address?
A RIDDOR report is required if an employee has an accident at home that is directly work-related and suffers an injury of the type that is reportable.
Certain types of diseases also need to be reported if associated with a work activity. These include musculoskeletal disorders that could occur through extensive use of an incorrectly set up workstation for DSE work. This is likely to be the primary type of work carried out at home. However, musculoskeletal disorders usually take some time to develop, so may not be apparent for many months or even years. For a disease to be reportable, it has to be diagnosed by a medical practitioner and be directly linked to work activity.
In respect of Coronavirus, the HSE states that you must make a report under RIDDOR when:
- An unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to Coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
- A worker has been diagnosed as having COVID-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
- A worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to Coronavirus.
In a work situation, it would be difficult for employers to establish whether or not any infection an individual contracted was as a result of their work. Therefore, diagnosed cases of COVID-19 are only reportable under RIDDOR if a clear work-related link can be established. In those cases, it would be reported as a dangerous occurrence, disease or death attributed to occupational exposure to a biological agent.
For an incident to be reportable as a Dangerous Occurrence, the incident must result (or could have resulted) in the release or escape of the hazard group 3 COVID-19 virus. An example could include a phial known to contain the COVID-19 virus being smashed in a laboratory, leading to people being exposed. However, it is also for other work premises to access the incident.
For an incident to be reportable as an occupational exposure to a biological agent, the diagnosis of COVID-19 must be directly attributed to the exposure. Such instances could include, frontline health and social care workers (ambulance personnel, GPs, social care providers, hospital staff, etc) who have been involved in providing care/ treatment to known cases of COVID-19: who subsequently develop the disease and this is reliably attributed to their work and verified by a registered medical practitioner’s statement.
For an incident to be reportable as a death due to occupational exposure to a biological agent, there must be reasonable evidence suggesting that a work-related exposure to Coronavirus was the likely cause of death. A doctor may indicate the significance of any work- related factors when communicating the cause of death.
HSE do not anticipate receiving many cases of RIDDOR reportable incidents, as such cases will not be easy to identify, and are anticipated to be rare, especially as prevalence ofCOVID-19 increases in the general population
Managing RIDDOR at home and away
Over the last week, we have been advising our existing Info Exchange clients to add the COVID-19 Primary Cause feature to their system. This configuration means workers, can update accidents (at home, in the office or anywhere in between) directly and quickly. This information is then fed seamlessly into the relevant RIDDOR reporting system to fulfil both the Government requirement and the organisation’s health and safety standards.
All of the above and many other issues raised by the increased homeworking numbers in the last few weeks (and for the foreseeable future) can be both managed and minimised through our bespoke and fully configurable Info Exchange solution.
Please get in touch if you need help configuring your Info Exchange system for COVID-19 or if you would like to know how we might be able to create a system to help manage and minimise your homeworking force’s accident potential.