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Occupational health and safety news and guidance

Stay safe when working from home

Working from home was becoming increasingly common, even before the Covid-19 outbreak. With improvements in technology, it has become easier for many office-based workers to work from home for more of their working week. The attractions are easy to see: the lack of a commute; working in a relaxed environment and; being able to call the shots for a while, are some of the appeals of homeworking to workers. But the fact is, that working from home is not without risks, and you need to know what to spot and avoid.

Is it suitable for you?

In most UK workplaces, working from home is a voluntary decision which needs to be agreed between both employer and employee. It may seem like a simple choice but, working from home is not as easy as it might appear. Not all of us are equipped with the required level of self-motivation to work effectively away from our more familiar office based environment. Time management skills, flexibility, and being able to balance home and work life effectively, are all part of what makes this decision far from straightforward. Some people thrive on the autonomy they have when working at home whilst others can feel extremely isolated when they can’t see their colleagues face to face.

Home Working Requirements

For someone who is usually office based, it may seem that all that is required for a stable homeworking office setup is a laptop, a decent internet connection and a smartphone, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. All of your equipment needs to be suitable for the work you will be doing and maintained to the highest standards. For those who work in a more ‘hands on’ industry sector, there are all sorts of issues that may arise with regards to health & safety regulations.

Other jobs where homeworking may be possible include sewing, card making, finishing and packing items, assembling and soldering electrical equipment, a domestic ironing service and many others – as you can see, there could be many other factors to consider here that wouldn’t apply to a typical office worker.

You might need to consider a range of other factors such as:

  • Suitable equipment (such as sewing machines, soldering irons etc.)
  • Protective guarding on equipment that needs it
  • Suitable and safe electrical equipment
  • Trailing cables or overloaded power sockets
  • Circuit breakers
  • Manual handling of heavy or bulky loads
  • Adequate ventilation and lighting
  • Noise levels
  • The competence to work without supervision
  • Risks to visitors and other members of the household (especially children)
  • Reporting and investigation of accidents, incidents or ill-health

Equipment and Regulations

Let’s assume that you are just working on a computer, and don’t require any specific safety or protective clothing; you will still need to consider the following requirements:

  • Are you insured to work from home?
  • Can you effectively maintain office confidentiality whilst working at home?
  • Will your taxation rates need to be altered?

A risk assessment for homeworking will need to be carried out by a competent person. Perhaps your working from home may be affecting other householders in a negative way. Your computer workstation safety will need to be assessed in an effective manner.

Consider also how you can be sure that your computer equipment and associated devices continue to be safe to use.

Working from home was becoming increasingly common, even before the Covid-19 outbreak. With improvements in technology, it has become easier for many office-based workers to work from home for more of their working week. The attractions are easy to see: the lack of a commute; working in a relaxed environment and; being able to call the shots for a while, are some of the appeals of homeworking to workers. But the fact is, that working from home is not without risks, and you need to know what to spot and avoid.

Is it suitable for you?

In most UK workplaces, working from home is a voluntary decision which needs to be agreed between both employer and employee. It may seem like a simple choice but, working from home is not as easy as it might appear. Not all of us are equipped with the required level of self-motivation to work effectively away from our more familiar office based environment. Time management skills, flexibility, and being able to balance home and work life effectively, are all part of what makes this decision far from straightforward. Some people thrive on the autonomy they have when working at home whilst others can feel extremely isolated when they can’t see their colleagues face to face.

Home Working Requirements

For someone who is usually office based, it may seem that all that is required for a stable homeworking office setup is a laptop, a decent internet connection and a smartphone, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. All of your equipment needs to be suitable for the work you will be doing and maintained to the highest standards. For those who work in a more ‘hands on’ industry sector, there are all sorts of issues that may arise with regards to health & safety regulations.

Other jobs where homeworking may be possible include sewing, card making, finishing and packing items, assembling and soldering electrical equipment, a domestic ironing service and many others – as you can see, there could be many other factors to consider here that wouldn’t apply to a typical office worker.

You might need to consider a range of other factors such as:

  • Suitable equipment (such as sewing machines, soldering irons etc.)
  • Protective guarding on equipment that needs it
  • Suitable and safe electrical equipment
  • Trailing cables or overloaded power sockets
  • Circuit breakers
  • Manual handling of heavy or bulky loads
  • Adequate ventilation and lighting
  • Noise levels
  • The competence to work without supervision
  • Risks to visitors and other members of the household (especially children)
  • Reporting and investigation of accidents, incidents or ill-health

Equipment and Regulations

Let’s assume that you are just working on a computer, and don’t require any specific safety or protective clothing; you will still need to consider the following requirements:

  • Are you insured to work from home?
  • Can you effectively maintain office confidentiality whilst working at home?
  • Will your taxation rates need to be altered?

A risk assessment for homeworking will need to be carried out by a competent person. Perhaps your working from home may be affecting other householders in a negative way. Your computer workstation safety will need to be assessed in an effective manner.

Consider also how you can be sure that your computer equipment and associated devices continue to be safe to use.

Further reading: The Health and Safety Executive's report, RR262 (Health and safety of homeworkers) provides further information on managing working at home effectively.

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