How to prevent musculoskeletal issues for homeworkers

Since the pandemic, working from home – whether full-time or part-time – has skyrocketed in popularity. But, just because your employees are working from the comfort of their own homes, doesn’t mean there aren’t still risks to their Health and Safety – and it also doesn’t mean that you’re not responsible for managing those risks. 

One of the biggest risks facing homeworkers is musculoskeletal issues. Half a million workers suffered from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in 2021/22, with 42% of those being back issues, 37% affecting the upper limbs and neck, and 21% affecting the lower limbs. 

And from all that ill health and injury, 7.3 million working days were lost. So, it’s important to manage the risks of musculoskeletal disorders to your homeworkers, because it’s a huge driver of lost productivity, talent, and skills. 

Want a recap of how to go about that? We’ve got you covered. 

This blog outlines:


  • the key steps you need to take to keep homeworkers safe
  • what you need to do to prevent MSDs
  • the equipment you can consider providing and the records you need to keep
  • suitable and sufficient controls in place for the hazards associated with Display Screen Equipment (DSE).


Ways to support your remote-working employees

One of the best ways to support your homeworkers and reduce the risk of them suffering from back pain working from home, or other musculoskeletal disorders, is to make sure that they complete a DSE assessment. 

This is an assessment that helps to determine whether their current desk setup is suitable and sufficient and whether any adjustments are needed. That could be specialist DSE equipment, or even just simple items to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders – like repetitive strain injuries, back and shoulder pain – such as separate mice, keyboards and screens for laptops.


Provide equipment

As an employer, if you’re expecting employees to carry out work activities from home, you must take reasonably practical steps to assess and manage the risks associated with homeworking. This can include conducting DSE assessments and implementing additional control measures, providing training, and also providing homeworking self-assessment checklists to remind workers of other hazards that they could control.

If more DSE is required for home workers, you have a duty to ensure that suitable and sufficient equipment is provided. So, for instance, if you identify in your DSE assessment that a second monitor is needed, you’ll need to provide one of a similar standard as those you have in your workplace. Make sure that you keep records of DSE assessments and get the employee to sign to confirm they’ve received any equipment given.


What equipment should you consider for remote workers? 

To help your employees avoid things like back pain or neck pain when working remotely among your remote workers, you could consider:


  • separate screens/monitors to prevent neck strain
  • separate mouse/keyboard for laptops to allow better posture at the workstation
  • desks/chairs that are adjustable to a workplace standard


Conducting a risk assessment

As well as your DSE assessment, make sure that you complete a general risk assessment for those working from home so you can prove you’ve met your legal obligations. Once it’s done, make sure your home workers sign it to confirm that they understand the risks.


Things to consider in your risk assessment

In your risk assessment for your remote workers, consider the following points:


  • Display screen equipment – use of DSE like laptops
  • Electricity (potential fire risks) – risk of fire due to faulty equipment, overloaded circuits or improper use
  • Lone working – the health, safety and welfare of lone/homeworkers could be compromised without an assessment of risk
  • Manual handling activities (general) – the risk of injury whilst undertaking general manual handling activities
  • Members of the household – Risk of injuries associated with other members of the household, as well as the risk of access to sensitive documentation
  • People movement (risk of slips) – Risk of injury due to access/egress hazards that can cause slips
  • Poor housekeeping – Risk of injury during access and egress due to the obstruction of traffic routes
  • Stress – The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on them
  • Work equipment (office) – Risks associated with the use of office equipment


Delivering training

Knowledge is power, as they say. Regular Health & Safety training not only educate our teams on maintaining good posture to prevent things like back pain when working from home (no slouching, folks!), but also guides them on setting up ergonomic desk space, taking regular breaks, and positioning screens and lights to reduce strain.


Remote working responsibilities for employers

It’s your responsibility as an employer to keep in contact with your remote workers, make sure you conduct a risk assessment which they’ve seen and signed off, and complete training and display screen assessments for home workers.


Help support your remote workers with Citation

The world of work is always changing – which means your Health & Safety obligations can be hard to stay on top of. That can be a real headache, especially when you’ve already got a lot on your plate.

We’re here to make that simpler. Our 24/7, all-in-one Health & Safety package gives you round-the-clock access to Health & Safety consultants for straightforward advice, support with policies, risk assessments, and method statements. You’ll only be granted access to our smart online hub, where you can access handy resources such as Health and Safety e-learning, accident reporting, and a simple risk assessment tool. 

If you’d like to chat about how we can help, we’re all ears. Simply call 0345 844 1111 or fill in the form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.

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