If you’re lucky enough to work from home you’re in good company. The number people working from home has increased dramatically over the years as more and more employers start to realize the cost saving and production boosting benefits.
Now, you might not think that working in your PJ’s carries any significant health and safety risk, but you’d be surprised. Working at home using electrical or any other form of equipment is not without its risks! Let’s take a look.
Working From Home Legislation
First things first – let’s take a look at the legislation regarding working from home. The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act should be applied in the same way to home workers as it is to workers carrying out their role in their employer’s setting. Employers should carry out a risk assessment of
each home working environment to ensure the environment is fit for purpose and that any health and safety risks are identified and controlled. In some cases a health and safety operative may visit the home of the home worker to carry out this assessment or it may be done with the cooperation
of the home worker themselves.
All employees working at home should expect the same standards extended to them as those provided to ‘regular’ employees. The work space at home should be adequate for the needs of the worker and a suitable workstation should be available. Suitable work equipment should also be of
the same standard as the equipment provided to workplace employees. Computer users should be provided with a good quality ergonomic chair, a standard desk and the relevant IT equipment. Their workstation should be assessed properly by a health and safety officer to ensure the screen is at the
correct height and that the chair and desk are comfortable.
Know Thy Risks
There are many different roles to consider that could come under homeworking and that means there are lots of possible risks. Here are the most common risks that homeworkers may face:
- Manual handling
- Working alone
- Driving jobs
- Work equipment
- Hazardous materials and substances
- Display Screen Equipment (DSE)
- Trips, slips and falls
- Work-related stress
- Electrical equipment – If the employer has provided the electrical equipment they have a responsibility to ensure this equipment is fit for purpose and maintained in the correct way. Other areas of the domestic electrical system such as fuses and sockets are the responsibility of the homeworker.
Other issues to be considered are those that involve new and expectant mothers working at home, the provision of first aid and the reporting and recording of accidents. Employers also need to consider the risks posed by electrical equipment used at home. For example, ideally all electrical
equipment should be secured to prevent children from accessing or damaging equipment or from damage occurring to the equipment through neglect.
Good News! The Pajamas Can Stay!
Don’t worry; you can still go on wearing your pajamas whilst tapping out that important email to the MD! You just need to make sure you’re not near any naked flames, that your pajama bottoms don’t pose a trip hazard, and that your cup of decaf mocha latte is well away from your laptop!
Whilst your employer has a responsibility to keep homeworkers safe through regular assessments and reviews of home working policies, there are measures you can take yourself to ensure you are working safely in a safe environment.
Before you start work each day, check your workstation. Make sure it’s set at the right height and that you are comfortable. If for any reason your workstation becomes uncomfortable highlight your concerns to your employer. It could be that your chair needs replacing or that you need a new
workstation assessment carried out. Suffering discomfort whilst working, could cause long-term health problems in the future.
Your employer should also provide you with a checklist and instructions on what to do when electrical equipment fails. If you notice a fault with your electrical equipment, e.g. a faulty plug, you should report this to your employer right away. Electrical equipment problems should be treated as
a matter of urgency by your employer as they pose a high risk.
Protecting Homeworkers From Risk – What You Can Do
Working from home is probably a lot less risky than working in the normal working environment, but it’s important to know the risks and what to do about them. It’s also important that employers do not become blasé about safety in the home environment. Our IOSH Managing Safely course offers in-depth training on many aspects of health and safety including assessing risk, controlling risk and understanding your responsibilities as an employer. Homeworkers may also benefit from basic health and safety training through our IOSH Working Safely training course.
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