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Keeping Home Workers Working Safely

May 17, 2008
With the trend towards increased numbers of people working from home firmly established, many Health and Safety managers are concerned about how to ensure workers health and safety are protected adequately, outside of the normal office environment. In particular, how to manage and monitor staff to take responsibility for themselves.

The HSE definition states that a Home Worker is someone who regularly works from home and many companies now recognise that they have potentially a large percentage of employees who may be included in this category.

The HSE guidelines make clear that whilst employers have a responsibility for their employees health and safety while at work, employees are also responsible for maintaining a safe home environment. Thus, whilst an employer is responsible for the electrical safety of all equipment supplied to a home worker, to the extent that regular PAT testing must be carried out, the employee is responsible for checking the electrical wiring on an annual basis, and for the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms.

DSE training and DSE risk assessment is a key part of health and safety practice for home workers, as it is in the office. Ensuring that this is kept up to date is a statutory requirement but many health and safety professionals find managing the audit of DSE risk assessment is hard enough in the normal office environment but doubly difficult when workers are at a distance.

Home workers need to be aware of the additional risks they face through being in a solitary work environment; slips and trips in a home office are potentially more serious because of the risk of not being found quickly. Home workers need to think about taking personal safety precautions before going to external client meetings. Fire safety awareness is just as essential in a home office as in a large organisation, but all the responsibility for ensuring precautions are taken falls on the home worker.

Enabling home workers to understand and manage their responsibilities, as well as providing them with the information to carry out DSE risk assessments for themselves, is now an important part of the health and safety manager's remit. One way to manage this is to introduce an online training and DSE risk assessment course for home workers which keeps an automatic record allowing a Health and Safety manager to see who has done the training, which risks have been noticed, and how concerns have subsequently been resolved.

Companies providing this type of training will cover a wide range of important health and safety topics, including electrical testing, fire safety, manual handling, DSE risk assessment, stress and personal safety. They will also include a useful section on five steps for carrying out DSE risk assessment.

Following the training, the employee can carry out a basic home worker risk assessment, with the results logged in a central database.

In the end, a health and safety manager has discharged his responsibility to a home worker if he has provided the necessary information and tools to allow that worker to responsibly manage health and safety for themselves.
About the Author
Health and safety expert Catherine Harvey looks at the application of DSE risk assessment for home workers.
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