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Home working: the health and safety issues

With Coronavirus COVID-19 cases increasing, there is a strong chance that the Government will ask businesses to ensure where practicable employees work from home to help delay the spread of the virus through the population.

For many, this creates problems, particularly if your business does not have a Home Working Policy (if you don't have one, it is recommended getting one written), and there are many issues that you need to consider, not least the isolation from colleagues. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) have a useful guide on their website. IOSH also have useful information.

From a health and safety viewpoint, wherever the employee works, the employer continues to have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their employee, including providing a safe place of work.

Therefore before an employee can work from home, the employer should complete a risk assessment in order for you to help control the risks to their workers. This in itself can cause issues - when is a home a home and when is it a workplace? It is difficult to enforce control measures on someone's home.

The risk assessment should be done in advance, so now is the time to do it before people are asked to work from home. It should include checks on the workstation, furniture, lighting, space, ventilation, data security, electrical safety, who else is in the home, and equipment, amongst other measures.

It should also be noted that some tenancy agreements and home insurance policies do not permit home working. Your business's insurance company may also need to be informed.

Many businesses do the risk assessment partly as a self assessment form completed by the employee, to ensure that they have the basics in place, followed by either a home visit or meeting about the assessment. You may need to install equipment in a home, which, if it is large or intrusive, may cause conflict.

For some businesses, working from home can cause problems - there may not be enough work for an employee to do at home. If this is the case, you may wish to consider giving them some e-learning courses to do during this time, to increase or refresh their skill level. KSH Safety Services, through their provider Videotile Learning, have almost 100 courses available on a wide range of subjects including health and safety, food safety, business skills, health and social care, amongst others. A full list can be found at here.

Throughout the current Coronavirus outbreak, KSH Safety Services will continue to support its clients. Depending upon what happens and what is enforced by Government and medical restrictions, this may need to be done remotely, but rest assured, we will be there for you.