Home working is becoming increasingly popular with both employers and employees as they begin to recognise the benefits of employees working from their own home rather than an office. As well as the cost benefits to employers, home working can offer increased flexibility to employees.
An employer’s legal duty to protect and monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers extends to employees working from home. Consequently the same health and safety requirements apply to home workers as to office based staff. In summary the employer must do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the heath and safety of their workforce whilst at work and of others who might be affected by the work activity.
Before an employee begins to work from home, it is essential to carry out an initial assessment of their proposed working area to determine the specific hazards and risks posed to each individual home worker. If the situation is found acceptable and home working is authorised the employer should periodically check that the working conditions continue to meet the legal standards. It is recommended that this is done annually. A structured discussion with their manager is sufficient, provided that action is taken where issues are identified. A note of the discussion should be recorded.
The proposed equipment i.e. chair, desk, keyboard etc. would need assessing to ensure it is ergonomically sound for the particular worker. The use of a ‘display screen equipment self-assessment’ questionnaire to be completed by the employee in written form may be helpful in ensuring the workstation is right for them and will present no physical hazards. The assessor should ensure the surrounding areas are free from hazards that could be a foreseeable cause of slips and trips, for example trailing power supply and computer cables that could cause someone to trip should be fitted with a cable cover or taped down.