Home working


30 / 4 / 2010 9.36am

This is a method of working which can be relevant to many jobs, but is not a specific job in itself.

As a definition, home workers are people who do the work they are employed to do either at home, or in other premises of their choosing.

Many of the hazards that might compromise health and safety while working at home will be the same as in the workplace, but there will be additional hazards.

The legal position

Legislation relevant to home working includes:

  • Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA) 1974
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSW) 1999
  • The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations (DSE) 1992
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998.

Employer responsibilities

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers are required to assess all significant risks, which include risks to home workers. Employers must also make adequate arrangements for managing their control measures.

In addition, under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, employers are required to assess display screen equipment risks, ensure that workstations meet the minimum requirements, inform users, plan work for changes of activity/breaks, provide eye tests and provide health and safety training. The employer must also arrange a workstation assessment of all display screen equipment users, including those working at home.

Under PUWER, employers are required to ensure that all equipment used by people for work is suitable and safe and, importantly, that adequate training has been given.

Employee responsibilities

It is not only the employer who has responsibilities under health and safety legislation. Under the HSWA, employees have a duty:

  • to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and that of other people who may be affected by their activities at work
  • to co-operate with their employer to enable the employer to comply with health and safety duties
  • to use all work items provided by their employer in accordance with the training and instructions they receive to enable them to use the items safely
  • to inform their employer of any work situation that could present a serious danger to health and safety or of any shortcomings in the employer's health and safety arrangements.

Risk assessment

In most cases, the employee's home office will require control measures to be put in place following the risk assessment. What the employer does then depends on factors such as how much time the employee is likely to spend working at home, and what the budget is.

Based on these factors the employer may do any of the following:

  • agree with the employee how a laptop is to be used and that work may be limited to a certain number of hours per day
  • purchase and install a similar workstation, chair and desktop computer to those used in the organisation's offices
  • provide furniture and IT equipment from stock already in the office
  • give the employee a budget and allow them to select items from a trusted commercial office furniture supplier
  • conclude that the home is not suitable for work due to lack of space or other problems.

The employee should receive training in good ergonomic and safe working practices in the home office. This should cover:

  • workstation set up and assessment
  • how to adjust the chair
  • how to adjust the workstation, where appropriate
  • good posture
  • avoiding unnecessary repeated stretching, bending, twisting to reach equipment and materials
  • changing tasks and position regularly to vary posture
  • taking regular breaks
  • taking mini breaks
  • performing regular, simple exercises involving fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, back, legs
  • what to do if the symptoms of work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs) are experienced.

However, it is not the employer’s responsibility to show the employee how to use equipment they have been given by, or purchased directly from, a third party.

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