With half the UK's workforce predicted to work remotely by 2020, employers will have to take greater care of their people working at home or face an increasing number of claims for muscular-skeletal disorders (MSDs). This was the message to an audience of health and safety practitioners at a seminar held by global law firm Clyde & Co.
Clyde & Co partner David Tait, an expert on occupational diseases, told the audience that he was anticipating an increase in claims for MSDs due to poor working conditions in employees' homes and their use of laptops outside the office in places such as airports and coffee shops.
Tait said: "Today, the modern workplace includes working from home. Indeed, it's a practice that's encouraged by many employers. Employees have to work in an agile manner, which includes using laptops in locations like train stations and coffee shops.
"Organisations will need to take greater care that their people are not harming themselves through their use of laptops and viewing display screens in sub-optimal conditions. Unless they do this, we will see more and more cases of muscular-skeletal disorders caused by home-based working."
Looking at broader trends for MSDs, Tait said he expected to see an increase in repetitive back injury claims. He also noted that, in his work in Scotland, he had seen an increase in claims from employments not typically seen before. For example, helicopter pilots making claims for back and neck problems due to new-style lifejackets following changes to government safety legislation.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 50% of the UK workforce is expected to work remotely by 2020.
In the UK today, 1.4 million workers are suffering from work-related ill health. MSDs represent 41% of all employment ill health cases with 156,000 new cases reported last year.
The Clyde & Co seminar, Effective Safety Leadership in the Workplace was held in London on Friday 31 May. Clyde & Co's SHE Regulatory Department specialises in advising businesses faced with criminal investigation and enforcement action by regulatory bodies such as the HSE.