Managing Health and Safety for Homeworkers
Out of sight should definitely not mean out of mind, when it comes to the health and safety of homeworkers.
The HSE make it clear that employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for employees working from home as for any other employees. So, an employer who has staff working at home, must still manage the risks to their health whilst at work.
Health and Safety Requirements for Homeworkers
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain. Under this legislation, employers are responsible for looking after their employees, whether they work on their premises or at home. In addition, there is a raft of regulations that cover the health and safety requirements for homeworkers:
- Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 addresses display screen equipment.
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 addresses the working environment.
- The Provision and Use or Work Equipment Regulations 1998 addresses equipment provided by the employer.
- Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 addresses fire safety.
- Working Time Regulations 1998 addresses working time measures.
- HSE Management Standards covers the general duty of care for employees.
Homeworking Risk Assessments
If an employer has more than five employees, they have a legal requirement to assess the potential risks in the work environment of homeworkers. This includes:
- Conducting risk assessments at the start of the employment, when there has been a significant change to the home and at least annually where there has been no change.
- Providing adequate information, instruction, training and supervision on health and safety matters.
- Involving homeworkers when considering potential risks and discussing how best to control them.
- Taking appropriate steps to remove risks around the home wherever possible.
Health and Safety Aspects to Consider
The following are some of the health and safety aspects employers should consider when managing homeworkers:
- Physical safety – in the context of homeworking, safeguarding workers against physical injury will usually involve assessing and managing obvious, visible risks.
- Occupational illness – work-related illnesses include neck and back pain, eye strain, repetitive strain injuries and conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, which are usually caused by poor ergonomics.
- Mental health and wellbeing – employers also owe a duty of care to manage the risk of harm to an employee’s mental health and wellbeing. This is particularly important for homeworkers because it is harder for managers and HR to spot the signs that suggest someone may be stressed or struggling.
Whatever the homeworking arrangements of employers – fully homeworking or hybrid working practices – it is important to remember how broad health and safety duties are. It will be challenging to fulfil some of these duties in respect of homeworking staff using traditional methods. That is why myHaswell has created a range of services that enable employers to manage the health, safety and wellbeing of homeworkers cost effectively. This includes an online Home Environment Risk Assessment that enables employers to carry out risk assessments easily and quickly on large numbers of employees; and an online Homeworker Wellbeing Questionnaire that enables employers to carry out regular wellbeing surveys easily and quickly on large numbers of employees. For more information contact myHaswell on 0118 449 2829.
Dr Angela Ellam
Angela is a co-founder and Director of Haswell Analytics Limited. She has played key roles in the shaping and managing the myHaswell services.