Health & Safety
Working from Home
Working from Home
It would appear working from home is likely to become the norm for a significant number of people and it is therefore perhaps timely to remind everyone of their responsibilities.
From the employers perspective there is actually no difference in terms of their responsibilities. Home workers are in the same position as any other worker.
Hazards Associated with Home Working
Home working would not normally involve exposure (except on a very minor scale) to chemicals. Also there would be no contact with biological agents or dangerous machinery involved in manufacturing. Instead it would normally be of an administrative nature and involve work previously carried out in an office or meeting room. The hazards encountered would eg involve the use of display screens and risk could be RSI problems and / or postural issues.
Employers Duties to the Home Worker
To carry out risk assessments should not cause the employer much difficulty. The protection of the home worker in such situations should be straight forward. However It is not feasible or desirable for the employer to carry out in situ risk assessments. Checking the use of display screen equipment or if the working environment is safe and well ventilated is difficult. So such assessments will need to be carried out remotely and in consultation with the employee. The employee would need to cooperate with the employer and comply and all reasonable provisions under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and do nothing to prevent or interfere with the employers duties.
What about the Benefits of no Commute?
Of course the removal of the commute may be desirable to the home worker but there can be unfortunate consequences. In particular the affect of working alone. The lack of normal work / social interactions can cause hither too unknown stresses and consequent mental health problems. Though in a small number of cases the affect can be positive as not everyone enjoys such social interactions.
What about the Employer in the Home Working situation?
Consider the effect on the employer. Low office occupancy, perhaps low staff motivation caused by home working results in poor outcomes. The normal buzz associated with coming to work meeting colleagues and exchanging ideas may be lacking. The affect can have a serious effect on the company and ultimately the bottom line. This could well have implications for the mental health and wellbeing of the employer.
So perhaps the mental health aspect is the greatest risk to all those involved and emphasing this in your risk assessment and having in place reasonable provision for managing this is fundamental.