Home, alone, or on the phone

It was not so long ago that "going to the office" meant leaving
home in the morning, working for eight to ten hours, and returning home at the
end of the day. Yet as more and more companies turn to new technologies and
sophisticated call-handling systems to develop their businesses, and
entrepreneurs seek to make their fortunes by setting up Internet-based
"dot.coms", the world of work is taking on new boundaries.

So what role should occupational safety and health professionals now play?
How many employers stop to think about employees who are working at home or
alone? What type of risk assessments and written procedures should be
introduced? How about those in call centres – what hazards do they encounter?
And whose responsibility is it to ensure that is out of "site" is not
out of mind?

To address these important questions, the Institution of Occupational Safety
and Health’s East Anglia branch held a day-long seminar, designed to assist
organisations to fulfil their duties towards employees who work at home or
alone, or look at those in a call centre environment, and suggest ways in which
employees can help themselves. Risk assessment and training requirements, legal
responsibilities, safety requirements, documentation and inspections, unseen
hazards of an apparently "safe" environment, security considerations
for lone workers and the support available from organisations such as the
National Group on Homeworking formed the core themes of the day.

The high level of interest shown in the event, attended by over 200 people,
suggests that work practices such as homeworking, loneworking and teleworking
are considered increasingly significant. The challenge now must be for
occupational health and safety professionals to develop, implement and promote
good practice in the new world of virtual work, in order to protect the safety
and health of real people.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health represents 25,000
safety and health professionals in industry, commerce and the public sector. www.iosh.co.uk

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