Smarter working?

Work has become a dangerous place.

If you work in a court you may be forced to work at a laptop in a totally unsuitable setting, hunched over a tiny screen without a monitor, keyboard or mouse and on a bench fixed at the wrong height. Pretty soon you are experiencing aches and pains, not helped as you try to avoid the trailing wires which cascade around your legs.

Then there are the leaking roofs, flooded basements, aromatic toilets, broken boilers, cracks in the walls and everything else that goes with a neglected estate for which “maintenance” is but a distant dream.

You might be excused for thinking that the way round this is to avoid the formal workplace altogether – the Ministry of Justice certainly does. Offices have closed, leaving staff to share too few desks and being told to pick up their laptops and cables and work “voluntarily” from home. Never mind the injuries caused by transporting so much weight or the aches and pains triggered through working at home with laptop balanced on your knees because you don’t have the right set-up – after all, it’s not the employer’s fault that you “chose” to work from home.

Well, actually it is. The employer is legally responsible for ensuring you have a safe working environment and should not be doing anything which puts you at risk. So how do we tackle this?

The problem is that when PCS negotiators complain about these issues we are often presented with a pretty unconvincing display of disbelief and surprise. “Ah,” they say, “But staff like this way of working. After all, we have had no complaints…” And that’s really the problem. It doesn’t matter that we know that many staff are very unhappy with the kind of environment they are forced to work in, the issue is that we don’t have the evidence to throw back at the employer. So, this is where you come in.

If you experience any kind of injury or see something which has the potential to cause injury, please report it using the accident reporting guidance found on the MoJ intranet. Once completed, this is submitted to the MoJ health and safety team. PCS-accredited safety reps have a legal right to view all accident reporting forms and this helps us prove that there are serious problems across the country. We know you are busy people and probably don’t want to spare the time to complete the form, but please give your reps the tools to fight on your behalf for a safe working environment. We can’t do it without you.

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