Health and Safety for Working from Home

Whilst some industries have returned to work, many businesses are continuing to work from home in line with government advice to reduce the risk of infection and to protect their employees.

Whether homeworking is a temporary or permanent solution, there are several Health and Safety responsibilities that employers and employees should be aware of, such as:

  • Can homeworking be done safely?
  • What work will employees be doing and for how long?
  • What control measures have been put in place to protect employees?
  • How will you communicate with the remote worker and the potential mental health challenges?

Many of us immediately decamped to home offices when the lockdown was first announced, creating makeshift and temporary workspaces for ourselves, but this may now become the “new normal” and as such employee’s and employers MUST plan and implement appropriate control measures to limit the risk to themselves and others.

Employers responsibilities:

As an employer you have an absolute duty of care for your employee’s health and safety whilst at work regardless of where the employee is working.

The employer MUST ensure that each employee has the right equipment at home to perform their work effectively (and safely).  They need to ensure that the employee has an appropriate working area with access to the appropriate IT equipment, furniture, and infrastructure.

Questions the employer should consider include:

  • Where will the employee be working?
  • What hours will the employee be working?
  • What is the lighting situation?
  • How much space will the employee have?
  • Does the employee have a chair that can be adjusted to provide postural support?
  • Has a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Assessment been carried out?
  • Is the monitor at eye height or does the user have to stoop to see it?
  • Does the employee need or have room to write?
  • Does the employee have access to a first aid kit?
  • Has all the electrical equipment been PAT tested?
  • Is there an emergency plan?
  • Is the employee vulnerable and are extra controls required for lone working?
  • Is their ready access to firefighting equipment?
  • Are there issues with access to telephone and internet services?
  • Are there any trailing leads or cluttered surfaces and floors?
  • Will others need to visit the employee, if so, what extra control measures are required?

With regards to homeworking employers MUST ensure that a DSE assessment is carried out, as it specifically looks at how the employee is interacting with their physical environment and ensures that their desk and screen are set up to minimise eye strain, back and neck ache.

Employers could provide fire extinguishers CO2 for electrical fires and water/foam for other office combustibles and carry out Portable Appliance Testing on all the employee’s workplace electrical equipment such as computers, monitors and printers.

Working from home can be a new and isolating experience, it often helps to think of them as “lone” or “remote” workers. This means that they potentially do not have access to the social support frameworks on interpersonal relationships in an office.

Ideally employers should make regular contact with their employees, these needs to be in line with the employee’s emotional needs.  Regular ‘keep in touch’ calls from line managers can help with the potential isolation, as can scheduling weekly zoom team catch ups.

Home working can lead to an increase in workplace stress, generated through communication issues, such as mis-interpreted texts and emails.

A good employer will offer support and guidance to every employee to ensure that they are comfortable and competent with the tasks that they are being asked to carry out. They will also try to prevent employees feeling overwhelmed with work whilst being understanding of their homeworking conditions, such as childcare.

The employer can consider offering flexible working hours to ease the pressure on those employees who are juggling childcare with workload. The transition of working from home should be made as easy as possible by providing IT support and by ensuring that employees have access to the right software and documents to perform their job.

Employees responsibilities:

Employees also have responsibilities with regards to health and safety when working from home, they MUST work in a safe manner and not endanger others. They must work to the safe system of work that the employer has provided in the form of a risk assessment and give feedback to highlight any safety concerns.

Employees may find it hard to switch off. Over the past few years, the boundary between home and work has become blurred, making it harder to disconnect. Now that people are full time home working this may be exacerbated.

To avoid overworking, employees should designate a space that simulates their normal work office. Preferably, this needs to be a space that is quiet and can be shut away at the end of the working day. If employees do not have a separate room or space to conduct their work, they could ensure that equipment and paperwork is stored away once work is finished to make shutting off from work easier. Additionally, employees should keep their workspace clear of boxes, papers, and wires to prevent possible trip hazards.

Everyone’s home is different, but it is vital that employees are aware of the potential electrical hazards when working, therefore, employees should be given advice on fire and electrical safety.

Employees should ensure that they have the correct office equipment to work effectively. If they do not or if the equipment is in poor condition, then they MUST inform their employer to achieve the safest and best working environment possible.

The employee should consider how to make sure that there is a system in place to protect any confidential or sensitive data and designate a place to safely secure this.

In summary, employees should maintain good personal welfare by looking after their mental and physical wellbeing. They should communicate with employers if workload is challenging or if they are struggling under the circumstances. To help relieve pressure and feelings of anxiety, ensure that regular breaks are taken throughout the day by setting a timer for 5 minutes after every hour of working.

Special Offer!

Our thanks go to C2 Safety for this great advice.  

As many employees are settling in for home-working in the long-term, their H&S at home will be paramount.

C2 Safety are offering £50 off their homeworking H&S check.

Parental Choice works with businesses to support their employees who have childcare or eldercare responsibilities.  We do this through helping them secure long-term dependable childcare or finding care homes for the elderly, all supported with a programme of wellbeing talks and presentations to provide emotional strategies designed to help with the challenges of juggling a family and a career.

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