26 July 2012

Homeworking is not just for the Olympics

The arrival of the Olympic Games in London will result in companies choosing to allow a greater number of employees to work from home. This has brought about a flurry of briefings on the implications of the Games for employers including the safety and health issues associated with homeworking. Hence the Games provide an opportunity to remind and inform you of the requirements when you have workers operating from their homes – whenever they do so and whatever the reason. Here are some matters for you to consider.

Risk Assessments – yes they do apply to home workers.

  • A risk assessment must completed. The assessment must consider the activities of the homeworker and any related hazards. Procedures must be put in place to prevent harm to the homeworkers and any others affected by their work, including members of the household, family members and visitors.
  • You may need to visit the homeworkers to properly undertake the risk assessment, especially where higher risk work is involved. Employees can also identify hazards to aid this process.
  • Appropriate measures must be put in place to remove or reduce identified risks. Such measures should be written down if the you have five or more employees.
  • The risk assessment must be reviewed periodically to ensure the adopted measures remain adequate.
  • The risk assessment must take into consideration specific needs of employees such as those who are new or expectant mothers. Risks include those which relate to an unborn child as well as to the mother.

What are the common hazards associated with homeworking?

Many replicate normal office hazards but some are unique to the home environment. Most homes are not designed with home working in mind – accepting that there are some exceptions. The following are but a few :

  • Manual handling – such as carrying heavy and awkward boxes up the stairs.
  • Incorrectly using work equipment at home – such as computer screens not properly located.
  • Using electrical equipment – are cables being dragged along floors due to poorly located sockets?
  • Fire safety – is the working area higher than the ground floor? What about overloaded extension leads?

You as an employer are responsible for the maintenance of any electrical equipment supplied to the homeworker as part of their work. But you are not responsible for the homeworker’s domestic electrical system such as electrical sockets.

What are the possible health problems?

The predominant concern is the ability to detect problems at an early stage especially if the homeworker is permanently based at home. The usual conditions such as back problems, eye strain and headaches often feature. Another matter to look out for is psychological conditions. A benefit of an office environment is the support of work colleagues. Home working can be a lonely existence – a fact reflected by some groups of homeworkers forming breakfast or luncheon clubs.

If you require more information or have a specific query please contact us or you will find helpful guidance on the HSE website.

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