Remote working | Staying safe in the home office

Staying safe in the home office

It looks like hybrid working is definitely here to stay and employers should consider how this could change their Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) obligations. As we head into a New Year, now is the time to assess your OHS policies in relation to employee home offices.

Policies create clarity

Given the different dynamics and responsibilities surrounding the home office, they should be considered in policy statements. For example, a policy outlining how the employer and employee have a shared responsibility to ensure the home-based workspace is safe, but the employer's responsibility does not extend beyond the home workspace area. It is also reasonable for a policy to define the areas considered primarily the employee's responsibility - particularly where these are more commonly the employer's domain in the office. This may include requiring the employee to ensure their workspace is adequately lit and powered, well ventilated, clean and free of trip hazards.

To inspect or not to inspect?

Whilst a physical inspection of the home office is an ideal, smaller organisations may not have dedicated health & safety resources and the cost of an external consultant may be significant. Another consideration is that while employees have a right to a safe work environment, they also have a right to privacy and to protect their family. To this end, organisations should consider consulting with their employees on a person-by-person basis before proceeding with any inspections. Photographic evidence is an alternative option to an inspection by a health & safety practitioner. Or, in the absence of a physical inspection, consider requesting completion of a safety checklist that addresses areas such as lighting, ventilation, seating and cabling, which may not be clear from a photograph.

Workplace wellbeing

The responsibility for workplace wellness is the same for home working as it would be in the office. For example, encouraging some form of physical activity in the home workspace as you would in the office is still a reasonable expectation. When it comes to mandating ‘away-from-desk time’ for all your employees, whatever policies apply in the office should be readily transferrable to the home workspace.

Capturing risk

When you’ve set your safety policies and checks in place, the next step is to ensure there is an easy way for employees to capture risks and hazards and report incidents. In the absence of a purpose-built solution, employees should be given clear instructions on who to contact in case of a hazard or safety incident, including email and phone numbers for their OHS representative. Also consider a regular ‘touch base’ with employees, to determine whether they feel safe and well supported at home. And be mindful of the responses, ensuring that employees, regardless of their work arrangements, know that any concerns are investigated and appropriate actions are taken.

Human Capital Management software provider, Frontier Software, has developed an app specifically for reporting hazards and safety incidents. All users of their Workplace Health & Safety software can install the app and lodge real-time safety reports with their manager or WHS Department. Safety reports can also include a photo of the problem.

Frontier Software have been successfully delivering systems to record, manage and analyse people data for forty years. With access to information through user friendly reporting tools, data analysis is readily available at your fingertips in real time for accurate and informed decision making. Contact Frontier Software on 01276 456902, email [email protected] or visit our website at 

Purpose-built software for recording accidents, incidents and hazards across your entire organisation

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Frontier Software Plc

Frontier Software is an established provider of a global HRIS, offering integrated modules across all aspects of human resource and payroll management. Used by organisations in the public and private sectors, ichris (International Comprehensive Human Resource Integrated Software) is a functionally rich and truly integrated solution that is available on-premise or in the cloud and accessible from a range of devices. Payroll processing services can also be provided.