Health & Safety
Is Working from Home “Work”?
Is Working from Home “Work”?
COVID-19 and Ways of Working
Since the early part of 2020 many people have been working from home. Opinion varies as to whether this is a “good thing” or not. For many it is quite a departure from the routine of travelling and the familiarity of the workplace environment. But there seems to be as many who prefer it as there are those who are not so keen. It is certainly a challenge for the management of organisations. They have had to adjust to a different way of operating their business. In particular the management of the health and safety of their employees.
Health and Safety while working from Home
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act was brought in to protect all employees “at work” and encompasses numerous pieces of separate legislation drawn up over decades for many diverse workplaces.
One area not explicitly covered is work carried out at home. Many people think erroneously that health and safety obligations do not apply if you are not in a traditional workplace.
What is a Workplace?
A Workplace is anywhere you carry out work for yourself or an employer. Your organisation has the same responsibilities to look after your safety, welfare and health as it does when you are in the office, factory, shop or wherever. Now, obviously this is harder to achieve from a remote location. However the principle still applies in the same way as it does for travelling workers and those working remotely all the time, such as in the public domain.
Working from home is safe, right?
It would be nice to think that working from home was without any hazards. Certainly you are less likely to encounter dangerous machinery, hazardous chemicals, moving vehicles or violent members of the public. However there are still dangers to be aware of.
In fact, according to RoSPA you are far more likely to have an accident at home than you are in your normal workplace!
Hazards while working form home
So what might happen? The most common accidents are our evergreen friends Slips, Trips and Falls. Around 6000 people die at home from this type of accident, although you are at far greater risk if you are over 65 in which case you may well be retired (or possibly not if the Government continues to raise the State Pension age !).
Other accidents involve electricity, heating and cooking, fires and using cleaning materials. Your employer should assist you to carry out a basic but written risk assessment.
Anything else I should know?
Yes. Safety is obviously very important to you and employers. But just as important and possibly even more so, is your welfare and health. There is a strong focus on mental health at the moment from the health and safety industry. The rise in home-working has brought this right to the top of the agenda for many organisations. For lots of people, working from home offers an unprecedented chance to redress their work-life balance. Productivity is maintained while saving time and money on travelling. The result being generally happier in your work. On the other hand, there are those who find it very difficult to cope. Particularly among those who live alone or just need the social interaction that the workplace provides.
Employers have just the same duties to look after this aspect of health and safety. However though some make considerable effort to do this it does sometimes need the individual raising their hand to say they are having problems.
Look after yourself
So, Working from Home is no different from a health and safety point of view than being in the workplace, but it does have its own potential problems. Your computer workstation needs to be set up as you would expect at work, within reason, and you should be able to be just as safe and healthy while working. These are difficult times and it is more important than ever that we look after ourselves and our colleagues and make sure no-one gets forgotten, even when they are working at home.