With each passing day, the UK population is having to adapt to changes in their lifestyle and working patterns which only a few weeks ago would have seemed implausible. Key workers providing fundamental services have had to quickly adjust to social distancing measures in the workplace. Meanwhile, key workers in service roles are sitting round dining tables balancing the demands of home schooling and entertaining the children while trying to maintain their incomes amidst a global healthcare and economic crisis.
As government policy becomes increasingly stringent to try and reduce the rates of transmission and flatten the curve of recorded cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19), an emphasis has quite rightly been placed on effective handwashing protocols and increased PPE provision. In times of national emergency, it is vital not to lose sight of the role of first aid in protecting the welfare and resilience of the workforce who are maintaining our essential services.
Data published by the NHS show that in the financial year 2018-19, there were 24.8 million attendances in Accident and Emergency throughout the UK. Even with NHS contingency planning, this is a number that public servants and healthcare professionals need to see reduced if they are to stand a chance of managing anything close to the levels of critical care patients we are currently seeing in Southern Europe. Maintaining effective first aid practices at work helps to reduce the requirements for emergency care wherever possible, and can only benefit an already overstretched healthcare system.
While this is extremely relevant in high risk-industries delivering critical construction and infrastructure projects, it also apparent amongst the millions of desk-based workers who overnight had to adopt remote working from home.
Emergency legislation has enabled modifications to current mental health and employment rights, yet there is barely any impact on the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations Act 1981. An employer still has a legal obligation to provide adequate and appropriate equipment to ensure their employees can receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other. Some key areas to consider are as follows:
- How will you keep in touch with them?
- What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
- Can it be done safely?
- Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?
It is advisable to carry out a risk assessment for home workers and ensure any space being used for working is suitable in terms of ventilation, lighting, and temperature. Assessing the workspace should also include removing trip hazards such as trailing leads. It is most likely in the current situation that most people coming to terms with their new working practices will be conducting low-risk, desk-based work in their home. In this case, no additional first aid equipment is required beyond normal domestic needs.
Greenham offer a wide range of first aid solutions to suit every businesses requirement from lone workers to large multinational organisations.
Having the equipment to deal with minor injuries in the home is only part of the solution. Not every member of staff currently working from home will have received any form of first aid training. The British Red Cross claim that only 5% of UK adults have the skills and confidence to provide first aid in emergency situations. This becomes increasingly relevant in the context of the increased burden of childcare on many households since the closure of all UK schools on March 20th.
Quality educational resources from respected providers are essential in building confidence to provide immediate and effective first aid. All kits supplied by Greenham include easy-to-follow first aid guidance leaflets.
As we continue to see new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK, we all must follow national guidance on handwashing and self-isolation to help restrict the transmission of this potentially fatal virus. The social implications of this global crisis will be profound. In the short-term though, Businesses must not lose sight of their health & safety obligations to provide for the welfare of their employees. Increasing the confidence and ability of those working from home to effectively treat minor injuries without the need for emergency care will not only boost the effectiveness of social distancing measures, but it may also well have a long-lasting benefit on society in general.
Disclaimer: The information provided through Greenham Pulse is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Greenham Pulse is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.