Safety in the home office
30 October 2020
An industry supplier recently received a surprise request for several fire extinguishers from its range of safety products, as part of a larger order of more mainstream hire equipment.
It transpired that the customer had bought them to issue to their own staff members as an extra safety precaution while they are working from home in the long term, rather than being in the office.
The regulations surrounding this aspect of home safety represent something of a grey area, not least because every domestic environment will be different.
Employees are not obliged to provide extinguishers for home office workers. “We recommend smoke detectors and planned exit routes are essential for anyone working from home,” says Paula Coster, a director of the health and safety consultancy Worksafe (UK) Ltd.
“However, we do not recommend extinguishers because immediately exiting a building is the best plan of action should a fire occur. If an employer does choose to prove fire extinguishers for home working staff, there are questions regarding maintenance of the extinguisher and training in correct use which employers must address.”
Nevertheless, employees obviously need to consider the health and safety of home workers. Early on in the lockdown, London Fire Brigade warned that people setting up temporary home offices should take steps to avoid risk from electrical fires.
Potential hazards include overloading plug sockets, using counterfeit or incorrect chargers for laptops and mobile devices, and ‘daisy-chaining’ – plugging multiple extension leads together or plugging many multi-socket adapters into a single socket.
Consultancies like Worksafe (UK) can give guidance on creating a safe working environment in the home or office, and can now undertake risk assessments remotely via Zoom, Skype or Teams.
• Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, offers a range of free resources to help employers, managers and the mental health of those working from home.