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Essential health and safety for home workers

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of all employees, including homeworkers. The Emprocom team has put together some health and safety guidelines for those now working from home.

17 March 2020

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of all employees, including homeworkers. The Emprocom team has put together some health and safety guidelines for those now working from home.

Assessing the risks:

• A risk assessment must be carried out which identifies the hazards relating to the homeworkers’ work activities and whether enough steps have been taken to prevent harm to them or to anyone else who may be affected by their work

• It may be necessary for the employer to visit their homeworkers to carry out a risk assessment particularly for higher risk work, however a system of self-assessment that is supported by photographs and detailed descriptions, may be adequate

• When deciding who may be affected by the work done at home and how they may be affected, this should include the homeworker and members of the household, including family members and visitors

• Appropriate steps need to be taken to eliminate or reduce any identified risks and if the employer has five or more employees the assessment must be written down. To ensure that the controls remain adequate the risk assessment must be reviewed periodically

• The risk assessment must pay attention to homeworkers who are new and expectant mothers. Risks include those to the unborn child or to the child of a woman who is still breast feeding, not just risks to the mother herself

The most common health problems experienced by homeworkers are headaches, back/neck ache and eyestrain.

Some commons hazards associated with homeworking are:

• Manual handling – loads that are heavy, bulky, difficult to grasp or unstable; awkward lifting, reaching or handling; pushing or pulling; repetitive handling with insufficient rest breaks; twisting and stooping

• Use of work equipment at home – incorrect equipment for the job, insufficient provision of training or information, lack of maintenance, insufficient controls/guards, failure to provide suitable and sufficient; personal protective equipment

• Using electrical equipment at home

• Using substances and materials

• Fire safety, particularly if the working area is above the ground floor

• Working with DSE

• Mental wellbeing with limited social contact

If homeworkers use electrical equipment provided by the employer as part of their work the employer is responsible for its maintenance. Employers are only responsible for the equipment they supply. Employers are not responsible for any electrical sockets and other parts of the homeworkers’ domestic electrical system.

The employer must give consideration to any first aid needs of the homeworker.

Please see our resource centre for a homeworkers policy and display screen assessment. If you would like help or assistance in developing a risk assessment to your particular needs please get in touch.

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