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The number of people working either fully or partly from home has increased steadily over the years. This page gives details on the things employers and employees should consider when assessing the suitability and the risks associated with home working.
Some workers might spend part of their time at home and be considered as having home bases, home workers are usually defined as those who use their home as their office or place of work for the majority of their time. Increasingly access to high speed IT connections has meant that some workers can telework, often linked to a contact centre or other customer services operation. Outworkers are another category, they usually carry out light assembly work or finishing of clothing and other garments on behalf of a larger organisation.
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Although they may be away from the workplace, health and safety legislation still needs to be considered, The Health & Safety at Work, etc Act and most associated Regulations and Guidance should be applied to home workers to ensure their safety. Importantly, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) requires employers to carry out a risk assessment of the home working environment, identify any health and safety risks that may affect the home worker or others and take steps to control them. In this regard, it may be necessary for the employer to visit the homes of workers to carry out a risk assessment, although it most cases this can be done with the cooperation of the home worker.
Home workers should expect similar standards to those provided to other employees. The actual work space should be adequate for the workers needs; ideally there should be some separation of the “workspace” from the home environment. The employer will need to provide suitable work equipment it should be to the same standards as anything provided for works based employees, in particular DSE users should have an adequate workstation with a proper chair, desk and IT equipment.
Insurance is another issue that needs to be considered, the employer should check that it covers the loss or damage of equipment.
There may also be implications for the home worker to consider in terms of valid insurance and any terms and conditions of their mortgage lender or local authority bye laws or other restrictions on using the home as a workplace.
Although it will to some extent depend on the nature of the work some common home working hazards include:
Other matters to be considered in relation to home working include New and Expectant Mothers working at home, first aid provision and the recording and reporting requirements for accidents including those required under RIDDOR.
Another issue to consider is what risks the work or work equipment might pose to others in the home? You should include this in the assessment, e.g. if there were children at home would the equipment provided be secured to prevent them gaining access to it or any hazards involved in the work.
You must decide whether the work and the worker are suitable for home working. It is critical that managers maintain contact with the home worker to avoid the feeling of isolation they might experience. As well as considering whether the work itself is appropriate to be carried out at home, employers should also assess the suitability of the person to work at or from home, it’s not a situation that will suit everyone.
Regular reviews are important to ensure that the home worker is kept in touch with issues in the workplace, receives the same training as others and is included in any correspondence and consultation on safety matters. It is worth considering issuing a home worker checklist that the home worker completes at regular intervals to monitor the effectiveness of the control measures identified in the risk assessment.
HSE Research has shown that “companies employing home workers felt that addressing the health, safety and welfare of home workers contributes to a higher level of commitment and makes them feel valued. It also helps to ensure safe working practices and avoids the potential costs of interruptions to work output from ill-health or injury”.
The report also provides example risk assessment templates and case studies for several industrial sectors.
HSE research on home working.
HSE publication “Home working - Guidance for employers and employees on health and safety” (INDG 226)
HSE publication “Working alone in safety – Controlling the risk of solitary work” (INDG73)
If you are thinking about starting your own business from home, then see the advice and support available at mygov.scot.
View The Heath and Safety at Work Act 1974
View Management of health and safety at work – Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 Approved Code of Practice and guidance L21 (external site)
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