Law guide: Employment

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Health & safety

Health & safety

Contents

Introduction

The law requires you to protect the health, safety and welfare of your staff (including non-employees, such as contractors) and prevent harm to any visitors to your offices and buildings.

There's a legal obligation on staff to cooperate with you on this.

The general aim of health and safety legislation is to:

  • Prevent accidents from occurring by setting the standards to improve the health, safety and welfare of a business's workforce
  • Develop a strong safety culture

Responsibility for homeworkers

You have the same duties of protection as when they are in the workplace, though this only applies 'as far as reasonably possible'.

Homeworkers must also take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of anyone else who might be affected by what they do. This is likely to include other family members, neighbours, visitors and so on. It's their responsibility to report all employment-related hazards to their own or others' health.

Employer's responsibilities

Employers are required to undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of all the work activities carried out by their workers. This involves checking for work-related safety risks, including fire, and risks to other people. This includes those who work from home or elsewhere.

In the case of homeworkers, it is best practice to visit their homeworking space to carry out the assessment, but where this isn't practical, you can give them a workplace health and safety questionnaire to complete. This should help you perform a risk assessment of the risks from working from home.

A risk assessment will involve:

  • Identifying hazards
  • Identifying those who could be harmed
  • Identifying what you are currently doing to manage the risks and what further steps might be required to reduce or minimise them. These are your control measures.
  • Recording the findings of your assessment and informing those at risk of the control measures
  • Reviewing the risk assessment on a regular basis, especially when there are many changes to procedures or equipment.

Hazards can arise from electrical power supply and equipment, such as computers or from equipment and fittings in the room where the work activity is taking place.

Others things to consider include the workstation, desk, seating, lighting, heating and ventilation and general working conditions. You should also consider any negative mental impact on homeworking.

The following should be considered:

  • Avoid the need for excessive manual handling and provide appropriate training for heavy lifting where necessary.
  • Ensure that all equipment provided is appropriate for the job requirements and, where necessary, provide training. You're responsible for the safety of the equipment you supply.
  • Ensure all electrical goods you've supplied comply with existing safety regulations. Usually the homeworkers' domestic electrical system is their own responsibility.
  • Ensure you've told the homeworker to report all faults which may be a hazard to their own or others' health.

See the Health and Safety Executive's guide on homeworking for more.

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