Working from home is becoming increasingly common. The last set of data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that the number of home workers in the UK has increased by nearly a quarter of a million over a decade. It is estimated that more than five million people work from home, either all of the time or are able to work flexibly, spending part of their time at home.
People work from home for lots of reasons, some of them because they have children at home and some people just prefer homeworking as opposed to a busy office environment.
Working at home, for lots of people, means working alone; something that needs to be taken into consideration by employers when reviewing home working policies.
Are Employers Responsible For the safety of Homeworkers?
All employers must carry out a risk assessment for employees and this still applies to home workers. When an employee works from home, their home becomes their place of work. This means that employers need to treat the employees home just as they would any other place of work.
Most types of home working will be a low-risk activity – office work for example. But this doesn’t mean that it is risk-free and if anything should happen to an employee in their home, within work hours, it must be treated as any other safety incident.
In a nutshell, yes, employers are still responsible for the health and safety of home workers.
You can find more advice on your responsibilities in a guide produced by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – Homeworking: Guidance for Employers on Health and Safety. It provides useful information on the steps you can take to help protect the health and safety of employees who work from home.
What About Lone Working From Home?
As mentioned, many homeworkers will be working alone when they work from home. In these cases, it is best for employers to treat their employees as they would other remote lone workers (delivery drivers, maintenance workers etc).
Care must be given to ensure that employees are not only safe from a physical point of view but that their mental wellbeing is looked after too.
What Are The Risks To Home Lone Workers?
The risk of anything happening to a home worker is one that employers can’t afford to take. You must assess the risk that an employee might suffer an accident, illness or assault while they’re working alone.
Working alone can be a stressful mental burden for many employees and also applies to home workers. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can impact on the mental wellbeing of some homeworkers. It’s a common myth that working from home is ‘living the dream’!
The most common risks are accidents and illness, fortunately, the risk of burglary or assault in the home are quite low but still shouldn’t be ignored.
It’s for these reasons that lone workers at home need a quick and effective way to call for help should they have an accident or security incident.
How Can You Protect Homeworkers Who Work Alone?
Protecting lone home workers is much like looking after any other type of lone worker. Regular check-ins are essential, not only to check that employees are ok but for human contact which can help fend of those feelings of isolation that some lone workers struggle with.
Ideally, you should know what hours your employees are working. This makes contact easy and enables you to make a quick judgement should you have not heard from an employee within their set working hours.
Finally, you may want to consider providing your employees with lone worker devices.
Lone Worker Devices for Homeworkers
A lone worker device may seem a bit of stretch at first but it makes perfect sense to provide your homeworkers with them.
Devices such as our KIT device, are the perfect way for homeworkers to be able to summon help in an emergency.
The KIT device can happily sit in its useful charging cradle on an employees desk, ready for any eventuality. This could be the onset of sudden illness, an intruder or an accident. As soon as a homeworker presses the easily located SOS button, a line is opened with our trained operators who will then listen and assess the situation. A speaker and microphone mean that the user can communicate with the operator if they are able to. The operator can then get the employee the type of help they need. This could be contacting an escalation contact or the emergency services.
Even if a device doesn’t need to be used, its presence and the security of having the device is enough to put a homeowner at ease.
More Information on Home Working and Lone Working
For further guidance on looking after remote and home workers, take a look at this guide produced by The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). It contains lots of useful information as well as a blank risk assessment and checklist.
If you have any questions about lone worker devices or are thinking about protecting your homeworkers, please give us call on 0333 7729401 or email [email protected]
First2HelpYou are able to provide help and advice on a range of topics related to homeworking and working alone.