what are the risks and…

Rome, August 1 – As we have mentioned in several articles about the activities in smart work o flexible work, the employer, in addition to providing employees with equipment and devices necessary to perform the work activity, must also take into account the aspects related to safety and health of smart workers (natural factors, microclimatic risks, electrical risks, psychosocial risks, technical stress, …)

These security aspects are also specific to instruments they applications provided to employees.

To get some information about this aspect and to promote adequate risk prevention in flexible working, let’s go back to the review of the document “Guidelines for risk management in smart working mode” which, prepared by the National Council of Engineers (CNI) , analyzes various types of risks associated with smart work activities.

The document emphasizes not only that the instruments used may be varied, but that “each of them may include the presence of sources of danger“.

For example, it should be noted, especially in the case of flexible work performed by the home worker, that “it is recommended for the company to discuss the possible need for an additional portable lighting element if the room being used does not allow sufficient lighting for the location of your home’. And even the document shredder, if provided to the worker, could be a matter “that needs to be carefully addressed before smart work mode is activated, to prevent, for example, the worker from endangering the safety of members of his family, especially in the case where there are minor children at home.”

Regarding the risks associated with equipment used in flexible working, as described in the CNI guidelines, we focus on the following issues:

Risks in flexible working: computers, tablets and smartphones

The CNI document focuses on the main media used for office activities starting, clearly, with electronic equipment such as computer, laptop, Tablet, i-pad And smartphones.

It should be noted that for the employer “it is necessary first of all check the availability of these tools for the worker who will operate in smart work mode. If the employee does not have the availability, any commission, if necessary, must be formalized as part of the contract. Not only this, availability of necessary accessories for ergonomic safety should also be checked. An obvious example is provided by checking that the mouse is provided, because continuous exclusive use of the touchpad is completely inappropriate as it is ergonomically unfavorable.’ And even exclusive use of the tablet “could lead to ergonomic problems for the flexible worker, as it is not commonly used with a mouse, despite the availability of connectivity on all models.”

In relation to the type of portable electronic instruments used there may be ergonomic hazards the risks to the eye system of the worker, as, for example, with “the all-too-widespread use of smartphones even for activities such as managing e-mails that can often take a long time, for which it would be important to sensitize the smart worker to the importance of providing privileges, to carry out these tasks, to use a computer or laptop”.

Ultimately, with regard to this equipment “it is important that the company, thanks above all to the competence of the RSPP and/or the Competent Doctor, verification of usage methods all portable electronic equipment, and not only, since the responsibility for the possible consequences for the health and safety of the employee rests with the employer, not only if the same equipment is provided by the company to the employee, but even if it is the property of the movable worker”.

Hazards in flexible working: printers, copiers and toner

The paper then focuses on some risks associated with printers, photocopiers And stress.

In particular, it points out that “both during the laser printing process and during copying with a photocopier, chemical-physical processes are carried out that cause the emission of dust (particles of paper and/or toner), ozone and/or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of whose quantity/quality depends on:

  • from the manufacturing technology of the equipment under analysis;
  • equipment wear and maintenance;
  • the quality of consumables (ink and paper, mainly).
  • the environmental conditions of the places in which you work”.

If some of these critical difficulties do not exist in the particular case of inkjet printers, there may be parallel problems, “associated with the method of producing inks which may include organic solvents such as MEK (methyl ethyl ketone)”.

Even if the substances in question, taken individually, hardly reach “concentration values ​​that constitute a direct source of danger, it is possible that some subjects manifest non-specific disorders such as itching, skin irritation, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, asthma and/or headache.”

To properly manage residual risk, “it is possible provides to:

  • reduce as much as possible the use of traditional printing, favoring the production and exchange of native digital documents;
  • place photo printing and reproduction equipment in non-shared and non-passage environments. Avoid proximity to direct heat sources.
  • store spare parts and consumables in areas dedicated to stationery, periodically checking their integrity and any expiration date. Avoid damp areas, which are very hot and/or exposed to direct sunlight.
  • choose equipment and/or consumables with energy and environmental certification;
  • improving the ventilation of spaces, favoring air exchange.
  • avoid behaviors that may worsen the initial risk profile (eg smoking)’.

Hazards in flexible working: shredding equipment and maintenance

As mentioned in the introduction, the paper also focuses on document shredders.

It should also be noted that “prolonged use of document shredding equipment (eg document shredders) ”Includes problems similar to those seen in printers regarding fine dust (paper particles) dispersed in the environment.

If this equipment is rarely used by workers performing their tasks in smart work mode, in case it is good to provide some indication to the worker and in order to “properly manage the residual risk, it is possible to provides to:

  • to shorten dematerialization cycles;
  • implementation of dematerialization and waste collection in well-ventilated areas;
  • put on gloves.”

In this regard, we must remember that a question in itself “consists of managing the destruction of large volumes of documents printed on thermal paper, characterized by presence of BPA and BPS which can be absorbed directly through the skin and/or through the inhalation of the dust generated at the time of dematerialization which includes – among others – bioaccumulation which can result in neurological, oncological problems and/or increased infertility”.

The paper then focuses on “instrument maintenance is provided to the flexible worker “which is undoubtedly” an additional element to be taken into account in the risk assessment and for the consequent adoption of effective preventive and protective measures. Special maintenance will not always be necessary, for example for portable instruments, but it is certainly useful in some cases, such as the possible supply of large printers or shredders.’

In conclusion, we refer to the full reading of the CNI document which, in relation to the risks associated with the instruments and applications provided to the flexible worker, gives further details, for example on the various chemical risks described or in relation to the assistance for the software problems used and the transportation of these instruments, especially if they are of significant size or weight.

Tiziano Menduto

Download the document from which the article originates:

National Council of Engineers, “Guidelines for risk management in smart working mode”, by Eng. Gaetano Fede (CNI Director, WG Security Coordinator), Eng. Stefano Bergagnin (GdL Security CNI) and CNI Temporary Thematic Group “Smart work and lonely work”, May 2021 edition.

Download the reference legislation:

Law of 22 May 2017, no. 81 – Measures to protect non-entrepreneurial self-employment and measures aimed at favoring flexible articulation in the times and places of secondary work.

Read PuntoSicuro’s other articles on smart working and telecommuting

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