A working from home risk assessment might not have crossed your mind until very recently. However, according to the CIPD (The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), around three quarters of employers now offer hybrid working, so it’s something that should be on your radar. So, do you need to complete a working from home risk assessment and, if so, what should it include?
A risk assessment is a formal system put in place to identify any potential hazards in the workplace. A risk assessment will detail how these hazards may cause harm and what can be done to reduce the possibility of these hazards causing harm. All workplaces are required by law to have a risk assessment and employers must understand how to complete a risk assessment.
Your employer is responsible for organising any relevant risk assessments, including a remote working risk assessment. This may mean appointing someone within the organisation, for example a HR executive, to complete any risk assessments. Every business should also have a health and safety file. Your employer may also choose to outsource risk assessments to ensure they have a thorough and robust health and safety risk assessment procedure in place.
Essentially, the responsibility for your work from home risk assessment lies with the employer, not the employee, and so employees should be able to find out who is in charge of risk assessments for the company, and access any information in the health and safety file about a working from home risk assessment.
Any good risk assessment will typically cover several key areas. It can include more, and may very well depend on the nature of the work involved. A warehouse for instance, will have a different criteria to a bakery when it comes to what’s in a risk assessment. A working from home risk assessment is likely to include, but is not limited to:
Fire safety is a mainstay of any health and safety risk assessment. It is just as important for a remote working risk assessment and can also cover electrical risks.
Things to look out for with fire safety in a working from home risk assessment might include checking fire alarms are working, ensuring routes to exits are clear in case of a fire, and eliminating any electrical equipment that may not be safe, for example a laptop plug with exposed wires.
Fire safety means assessing and reducing fire risks as well as ensuring that everyone could escape if a fire did break out.
Slips, trips and falls can happen anywhere, including at home. There may be fewer obstacles in a home office environment, or there may be more, such as children’s toys or even pets. A working from home risk assessment should identify these potential accident spots and list ways to reduce these risks.
As part of a remote working risk assessment you may wish to detail what happens if an accident does occur, and what steps you will take to report the accident.
The home working environment is a broad subject that can directly impact health and safety. Having enough space to work comfortably and safely in is a key area to consider. This means having the right equipment, from a desk and a comfortable chair to a suitable screen or keyboard. Some people may have medical conditions that mean they need more specialised apparatus, which would need to be taken into account for a work from home risk assessment. In line with this, the work environment covers things like having adequate breaks from screens and having time and space to move around.
Working from home has many benefits but the absence of colleagues can also mean increased risk. If you are completing a remote working risk assessment and work from home with no one else present, then consider what would happen if there was an accident or how you might handle your wellbeing without the social interaction of an office environment. This is where what’s included in a risk assessment can differ for a work from home risk assessment and an office based one.
For jobs where there might be some manual labour, for example packing and shipping orders, a working from home risk assessment needs to set out how these manual processes will be completed to ensure they are safe in the home environment and for lone working.
The community benefits of working in an office can be overlooked but the social aspect, even just getting out of the house to get to work, can have a really positive impact on mental and physical wellbeing. Hybrid working means employees can enjoy the positive sides of the office and working from home. However, a work from home risk assessment should include a section on how employees can manage their mental and physical health on the days they are at home. Even more so if they work from home more often than not.
When you have defined the areas to include in your work from home risk assessment as above, the next step is to complete the details. There are generally 5 key parts of a risk assessment:
Employers or employees may want a high level of detail in their risk assessment or may be happy with a few brief notes. This is something that can be defined before the remote working risk assessment gets underway.
There is no legal obligation to update a risk assessment in any set amount of time. This decision is often made by the person responsible for the risk assessment. With a work from home risk assessment, there are some circumstances that may prompt a refresh. For instance, if an employee moves house or their responsibilities change. An employee can let their employer know and the remote working risk assessment can be reviewed.
Under the The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers are required to carry out risk assessments. This is because they are responsible for their employees health, safety & general wellbeing. If something were to happen to an employee whilst working from home, the employer could be held accountable. This is why it is strongly advised that employers arrange a work from home risk assessment for their staff.
If an in depth risk assessment isn’t possible, employers can still ask employees to complete a simple remote working risk assessment themselves. There are no definitive rules on what has to be included in the risk assessment but it is wise to make sure key areas like fire safety, illnesses and accidents are accounted for.
Employees do not need to perform a work from home risk assessment, they may do so at their own discretion. However, an employer does have a duty of care to ensure colleagues are supported practically and that their health, safety and wellbeing are taken care of, so they should arrange for working from home risk assessments to be carried out. If you are an employee and would like a work from home risk assessment, you can ask for one to be arranged.
It isn’t always obvious what should be included in a risk assessment, and especially now that more people are working from home. A work from home risk assessment is a relatively new concept for employers and employees to tackle.
Rhino Safety offers Health and Safety Audits for businesses, to assess their current health and safety policy and advise what is working and what else should be included. This can help identify areas that employers may not have considered, like a remote working risk assessment procedure.
Contact the team at Rhino Safety to find out how we can elevate your business’s health and safety policy and help with robust risk assessments for office based, remote or hybrid working.