The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted dramatic changes in many aspects of our lives – not least the working world. With so many people finding themselves working from home for the first time, here is ASM’s guide to health and safety in the remote work place.

Just as in any other workplace, health and safety must be carefully considered when working from home. Employers still have a duty of care to their employees, and need to ensure health and safety standards are being met. Employees must also work towards health and safety goals, following guidance, and informing their employers of problems so that adjustments can be made.

How can employers support home working?

Employers have a duty to support the health and safety of employees in the workplace, and this includes during home working. For colleagues working at home, employers should:

– Consult with employees to ensure they are aware of any specific risks associated with working from home
– Check that the work activity and the temporary workspace are suitable
– Ensure that the employee can easily contact their employer
– Provide any equipment necessary to allow the employee to complete their work from home

What are the health and safety responsibilities of employees during home working?

Employees must:

– Cooperate with their employers health and safety guidelines
– Report any issues to their employer immediately
– Do all they can to protect themselves and others from harm in their working environment

Health and Safety preparations for home working

– Temporary remote working arrangements should be clearly agreed between employer and employee, and this should include provisions for regular communication
– A safe and comfortable space within the home should be identified as a work space, separate from employee living areas.
– Equipment needs that ensure a safe working environment should be agreed between employer and employee.
– Emergency plans and contacts should be made clear.

Considerations when setting up a home work space

The health and safety implications of working from home are numerous. When identifying a suitable space within the home for working, consider:

– Is there suitable light, heat and ventilation to create a comfortable environment?
– Are power sockets located conveniently, to avoid trips and falls over cables?
– Is there a desk of the correct height and dimensions to allow for good posture and back health?
– Likewise, is there a chair that will support the employee’s back health and allow good posture during desk work?
– Is the floor clean, clear, and free from slip, trip and fall hazards?

Employees must identify shortages in equipment that will hinder their working process, and agree any additional needs with their employer. When setting up the working space, ask:

– Is there internet access? Is it fast enough for working purposes?
– Does the employee need a headset for taking calls?
– Does the employee need a work phone?
– Does the employee need any additional I.T. equipment?
– Does the employee need stationery supplies?

Keep Communications Clear

When working from home, it is important that clear communication is maintained by both employer and employee. This is not just vital to a good working relationship; from a health and safety point of view it is essential. There are several health and safety reasons for good communications:

– Mental health – those who are new to home working can often feel isolated, and find it much harder to deal with problems than when they were in the office community. Reaching out regularly to colleagues can ease this feeling, and improve productivity, well being, and morale.
– If an accident should arise from an employee’s work activity, it is vital that their employer is informed immediately. The health and safety of the employee’s home work set up should be reconsidered, and risk assessed for the future.
– If working equipment that an employer has provided is not working properly or requires maintenance, this must be resolved swiftly – especially if it creates further health and safety implications.
– If employees have specific health, safety, or welfare concerns, they need to be able to relate these to their employer with ease.

ASM are experts in health and safety consultancy. If you need assistance in reviewing your home working set up, and ensuring that your current plans are compliant with requirements, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can contact ASM on 01 234 3724 / 021 2409072 or