With all of the technology we have access to, working remotely is easier than ever right now. Remote working refers to anyone working from home, away from others, or in isolation. However, just because an employee is a remote worker does not mean that they do not require personal protective equipment (PPE).
The remote workplace is simply an extension of the regular workplace and the same safety standards apply. The safety of a remote worker can be hard to manage since that individual is not working from a controlled environment and can’t be physically checked on to ensure compliance. This is why you need to have systems in place so that nothing and no one slips through the cracks.
The first step to keeping a remote worker safe is having a clear policy on what is required and expected of them for their safety. This policy should be sent to them physically and also be easily accessible electronically (ie. emailed or on your company site) so it can be referenced as needed. These workers need to know that they are held to the same safety standards as those who are working more closely with others. Regular check-ins will help keep them accountable and let them know that you expect them to be adhering to the safety protocols you have laid out for your company.
You must also ensure that each remote worker has access to proper PPE should it be required. Let’s say Sally is working from home and she needs to physically mail some items at the post office. Since her task is work-related, she should expect her work to provide proper PPE to fulfill her duties. In this case, a mask, gloves and hand sanitizer would be expected. Just because an employee isn’t physically in the workplace, does not mean they are any less entitled to PPE than those working within the office. If the responsibility is work-related, PPE should be provided.
A good way for a company to ensure they have their bases covered when it comes to PPE and the remote worker is to come up with a list of potential tasks a remote employee may be faced with, and think of all the various PPE that they might need. From there you can assemble ready-to-go remote work PPE kits that have all of the supplies within them. Having this ready for an employee shows that you take safety seriously and ensures they have everything they need to follow your health and safety policy for remote working.
It’s very important that remote workers know that they are expected to adhere to your safety policies regarding PPE. Be sure that they get proper training so that they feel comfortable using the PPE. Give them an opportunity to ask questions before they are required to wear PPE. Have them practice putting it on and taking it off so that they feel very comfortable with it. You cannot assume that everyone knows how to use this equipment correctly. When doing your regular check-ins be sure to ask about PPE and see if they have any questions or concerns. Compliance and consistency are crucial when it comes to PPE use. Ensure your remote staff has enough PPE before it becomes an issue, it’s much easier to stay on top of it rather than scramble to get some last-minute when someone is on their last disposable mask.
It can be easy to overlook PPE for remote workers because they aren’t physically in the workplace. That does not mean that it isn’t important though. Making a point to discuss safety and PPE for remote workers regularly will help with compliance and ensuring that they are aware of its importance. Keep remote PPE kits stocked and ready so that you’re never caught off guard looking for extra supplies.
The workplace is changing. More and more companies are utilizing remote workers and you need to ensure you are prepared to meet the safety and PPE requirements of those workers. Get organized and prepared now to avoid scrambling later.
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