Employers have the same health and safety duties under law to homeworkers as they do to office workers. These duties apply not only to employees but also contractors e.g. freelancers who work for you. They also cover mental safety as well as physical.
Employers need to identify, assess and control risks arising from home working set-ups as part of their overarching health and safety risk assessment and health and safety obligations.
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – Section 2
This Act imposes obligations on employers to, as far as reasonably practicable, ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – Section 3
These regulations impose obligations on employers to make an effective assessment of the health and safety risks which employees may be exposed to whilst at work.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
These regulations make clear the meaning of ‘Display Screen Equipment’ and ‘Workstation’ by providing definitions and direct information on what employer’s obligations are.
The key risk here is muscular skeletal injuries due to poor workstation set up. These injuries may build over time and not be apparent early on. Employees may be able to make claims many months on from when they first start working in a specific set-up that causes these injuries – and in some cases, the extent of the injury can be quite debilitating.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
These state that employers must ensure the health and safety compliance of work equipment when selecting it. The regulations require you to ensure equipment that employees are using to work from home is suitable, and that health and safety is considered when selecting it. Employers must also ensure the suitability of equipment when giving employees the ability to choose it for themselves. Employers must maintain this equipment and ensure it remains safe and properly used (and that employees are educated as to what proper use and positioning means) as part of a regular health and safety equipment maintenance programme.
NB: Workstation assessments must be carried out if you have more than five employees.