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‘Tsunami’ of health problems occurring because of poor ‘work from home’ practices, ergonomics specialist warns

  • 2 min read
  • Too many employers have neglected vital workstation assessments for homeworkers during the pandemic, industry experts Osmond Ergonomics warn – and employees could be paying the price.

Guy Osmond, of Osmond Ergonomics, who has 30 years’ experience in the workplace health and wellbeing sector, has urged employers to recommence Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessments for staff who have moved to homeworking or hybrid working during the pandemic.

Without the correct set ups, workers risk developing long term health issues, including potentially debilitating back problems, he warns.

Guy said:

“I fear we are facing a tsunami of musculoskeletal health issues amongst the population of workers who shifted rapidly to homeworking during the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, the ‘temporary’ set ups and makeshift arrangements they adopted have been allowed to continue, as many employers have allowed their risk assessment schedules to drift. Two years down the line, many of those workers are paying the price.

“Sorting out those who have developed back aches, neck and shoulder pain, repetitive strain injury and so on used to be more than half of our business but the demand diminished significantly through the pandemic.

“But, since the beginning of 2022, we have observed more employers starting to address the problems arising due to people being neglected at home.”

Prolonged sitting and poor workstation layout can be the trigger for the musculoskeletal pain and discomfort experienced. All parts of the body can be affected and most injuries tend to develop over time. The causes for these injuries are not always immediately obvious but, if left untreated or unmanaged, they can progress from mild to severe conditions and lead to longer-term physical health problems.

Employers are legally required to carry out a DSE workstation assessments for knowledge workers and protect them from the health risks of working with display screen equipment such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones under The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations. These apply to workers who use DSE daily for continuous periods of an hour or more.

But, in many cases, assessment programs have either been makeshift or completely neglected for those working from home during the pandemic, leaving millions with home working set-ups which could damage their health. Guy added:

“Many, probably millions, of people are working from home in circumstances that encourage or even force prolonged poor postures. Often, there is just not enough space or insufficient equipment to work effectively.

“Anecdotal evidence from physiotherapists and other professionals suggests that a backlog in Display Screen Equipment assessment needs is resulting in significant numbers of employees with untreated musculoskeletal problems.”

Now, as many companies and individuals are opting to make the move to homeworking or hybrid working permanent, employers must reinstate their DSE assessment procedures, Guy added:

“It is high time employers take responsibility for the needs of their remote workers, ensuring they are carrying out proper risk assessments and acting on the findings. By responding now, they could still prevent the kind of physical health problems which can blight lives, as well as undermining productivity.”

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