During the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in June 2020, 30% of adults in the UK were working from home. Even now, nearly a year later many workers continue to work outside the office environment. The pandemic was the first taste of home working for countless people across the UK and it has provided many benefits for workers across a range of industries. People have lost the stress of the commute, have greater flexibility and an improved work-life balance.
However, just because employees are out of sight doesn’t mean that they should be out of mind when it comes to Health & Safety. Regular health and safety requirements apply to all employees, whether they work in the office or at home, in line with The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974). This means that employers are liable if an employee injures themselves whilst working from home.
Therefore, it is important that as an employer you are taking all the necessary steps to honour your Health and Safety commitments.
The dangers & risks of working from home
One of the issues of working from home is that although employees are still bound by health and safety regulations, these regulations are almost impossible to enforce. This is due to two key reasons.
Firstly, staff working from home are not necessarily aware of the potential fire risks of working at home. Electrical Safety First surveyed 3,000 people at the start of lockdown and discovered that a third of employees were unaware of the potential fire risks of overloading plug sockets! This issue would typically be quickly resolved in the office by the company QHSE team.
Secondly, employees do not have the same level of resources available to them at home as they would in the office. Given the rapid nature of how lockdowns were enforced, some employees had to make do with the resources they had at home, working from kitchen tables, sat on the sofa with a laptop on their knee, even using an ironing board as an impromptu desk! Although these approaches temporarily solved the problem of creating a workspace they are not without their hazards. Leaving appliances like laptops and phones charging on a sofa, bed, or other flammable surfaces can increase the risk of household fires, especially if the charger or battery is faulty.
The Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) requires that any electrical equipment that could cause injury is maintained in a safe condition, ‘as may be necessary to prevent danger’.
How to make home workspaces safe
The easiest way of reducing the risk of injury due to fire at home is to ask employees to carry out user checks of their appliances, such as monitors, extension leads and phone chargers, to see if there is any damage such as frayed wires or damaged casing. However, this means businesses are wholly reliant on employees to determine if appliances are fit for use. In addition, these checks would not detect any internal damage.
PAT testing is the best way to ensure that all the printers, phone chargers and extension leads used in the office, or at home, are safe and will not pose a fire risk. Electrical appliance testing should be carried out by a ‘competent’ person, at a frequency appropriate to a businesses’ requirements.
PAT testing and Working From Home
If staff are working from home, there are two ways that companies can carry out PAT testing.
- Carry out PAT testing at an employee’s home
This is when a ‘competent person’, ideally an engineer, visits an employee’s home to carry out PAT testing there.
Staff may feel uneasy about having an engineer in their home, especially if they are concerned about coronavirus, but engineers can negate this risk considerably and reassure employees by wearing face coverings, using hand sanitiser and undertaking a daily Lateral Flow Test.
2. Test appliances when staff attend a local office
If staff need to attend site for a meeting, they can bring their appliances to the office, leave them with an engineer and take them back home with them after the meeting. Alternatively small group staff drop ins can be arranged to enable the testing of their appliances.
This is a more cost-effective solution and allows engineers to test several pieces of equipment in one location, but it can be hard to coordinate. It also requires staff to bring potentially heavy or cumbersome pieces of equipment into work.
Employers are responsible for keeping employees safe
It is the responsibility of the employer to keep staff safe from harm, wherever they are working. Undertaking tasks like testing appliances can go a long way towards making employees feel happier and more productive, and most importantly, safer. Although working environments have changed significantly over the past year this is not a reason to neglect health and safety requirements.
We have COVID secure working practices in place as well as the knowledge and expertise to ensure all your equipment is PAT tested correctly.