If you’ve got employees working from home on a temporary or permanent basis, a key thing to think about is their health and safety. It’s easily overlooked – of course an employee is in their home all the time and managing their health and safety on a personal basis is entirely up to them.
But from a legal point of view, you are just as responsible for the health and safety of employees working at home as you are when they are in the office. They can’t be ‘out of sight and out of mind’ from a H&S point of view just because they are not on the company’s premises.
The good news is that a home is unlikely to be a high risk environment, so the kind of safety precautions and measures you need to put in place needn’t be too onerous, and it is likely that with guidance, the employee themselves can take the lead in ensuring everything is as it should be.
Assuming your home worker is mainly going to be sitting at a desk looking at a computer, like most office roles, then a risk assessment will be very similar, but the difference will be that your home worker may not have easy access to all the standard office equipment, so adjustments are more likely to be necessary.
If you’re getting your homeworker to do their risk assessment alone, make sure they understand what to look for, and include things like screen height, wrist support, foot rests, and the ability to adjust the chair properly. Encourage them not to be concerned about asking for extra equipment – if they did a risk assessment in the office, and it was discovered they needed a footrest, one would probably be obtained fairly easily. Many people don’t want to be difficult so ensure home workers feel able to ask for this type of device if it is needed, and if it is, make sure they get it.
You should also ensure they get electrical equipment testing, just as you would for anything electrical in the office, and that they have access to basic safety equipment like a fire extinguisher.
You won’t be able to physically notice whether they are taking regular breaks from screen use, so highlighting the importance of this (and checking they are doing it) is crucial – it’s easy when sitting at home to get engrossed in what you are doing, particularly without the distractions of the office environment, and not to take a break from your screen for long periods.
Also consider physical safety if they will be meeting people as part of their role; clients, suppliers or colleagues. It may be best to ensure any meetings they conduct as part of their job happen either in the office or in a public place like a hotel or coffee shop.
Lastly, bear in mind their mental health. Isolation can be a real problem with those working from home, so make sure your team member feels able to come forward if they are struggling mentally, without feeling stigmatised, and with confidence that they will get support, and give them access to the many resources and tips available on protecting mental health when working alone.
The Health and Safety Executive has some excellent more detailed guidance on managing health and safety for homeworkers available here.
If you need further advice on health and safety for homeworkers, do get in touch.