Are home workers classed as lone workers?
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Home working has become significantly more common since the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and it has now very much become the norm. Some people have elected to stay at home rather than going back to the office and many of us are working a hybrid model with some time at the office and some at home. This new working model has thrown out a large number of health and safety questions and one of those is, are home workers classed as lone workers? In this guide we will take a look at this question in the hope of giving a robust answer.
Table of contents
What is a lone worker?
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) a lone worker is someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision. Now the important part here is the supervision bit.
HSE guidance on Lone Workers
Before the pandemic, the HSE guidance on lone working did not specifically mention home workers, although there was guidance on how employers should manage the risks to home workers. In the new guidance the HSE specifically mentions that home workers can be classed as lone workers and that an employer has the same responsibility to protect their health and safety as for any other workers.
In essence, then, yes home workers are classed as lone workers under the HSE, this includes those of us who work from home long term and those of us who split their time. This means that an employer has very specific health and safety responsibilities.
What does an employer need to do?
As you’d expect the HSE has specific guidance for how to manage the risks associated with home working, but in summary an employer should:
- Consider stress and poor mental health
- Consider the use of equipment like laptops
- Consider the employees working environment
This consideration should be done through a formal risk assessment, as an employer would do for any employee working on the company’s premises.
The risk assessment needs to additionally consider how the employee and employer will keep in contact with each other, what the type of work is and how it can be done safely. This will be looking at things like lighting, seating position, provision of safe equipment, cable management, breaks and check ins.
Home workers are prone to poor mental health as they have significantly reduced social contact and tend to not get out of their home as often as they normally would. This can leave them feeling isolated and disconnected. Daily check-ins are important in helping prevent poor mental health.
An employer should still carry out a display screen equipment (DSE) assessment. This is perhaps is even more important when we work from home as quite often the workspace is not specifically designed for office type work meaning the layout could be sub-optimal.
Finally, an employer should also make sure that any equipment supplied by them is safe and that the home working environment is free from slip and trip hazards and has a good cable management systems in place to reduce the possibility of injury.
As a part of all of these activities, an employer should discuss any potential risks and their mitigation and carry out any required training.
In essence, a home worker can certainly be seen as a lone worker as they are likely to have limited or no direct supervision and an employer has the same duties to them as they do with any other employee. Simply because they are at home does not mean there are no risks to the employee’s health or safety.
Health and Safety Training
At Chris Garland Training we have a range of health and safety courses, both classroom and eLearning format. These include: Display Screen Equipment Awareness and Assessing Display Screen Equipment you can view our full diary of courses here. Need bespoke training at your premises? Complete this form and we will be in touch with a quotation to provide the requested training.