As someone working from home, what health and safety issues should I be considering?

Hazards can arise from electrical equipment and Visual Display Units (VDUs), or from equipment and fittings in the room where you work. These may include the workstation, seating, lighting, heating and ventilation and so on.

Work with VDUs can give rise to back pain or RSI, stress or visual discomfort if you don't take precautions. See How can I avoid back pain or injury? for more information.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations also apply to homeworkers. These require employers to assess and reduce risks; ensure workstations meet minimum requirements; plan breaks or changes of activity; provide eye tests on request; and provide health and safety training and information.

You should also:

  • avoid the need to carry heavy or awkward items unsafely (e.g. don’t store heavy files or equipment on high or flimsy shelves);
  • make sure the equipment provided is appropriate and that you get training if you need it. Your employer is responsible for the safety of the equipment they supply for homeworking;
  • check that all electrical goods comply with existing safety regulations. Your employer is responsible for checking compliance. Your domestic electrical system is your own responsibility;
  • report all faults which may be a hazard to your own or others’ health. This is your responsibility;
  • take regular breaks away from the keyboard; and
  • ensure there are adequate first-aid provisions in place. Exact provisions depend on the nature of the homeworking activities, but are the responsibility of your employer.

You also need to make sure you take good care of your own mental health. For example make sure you:

  • take regular proper breaks, including a proper lunch break, and get some fresh air;
  • take active steps to keep up your personal relationships at work, for example picking up the phone to speak to colleagues instead of using email; and
  • maintain a clear divide between work and home life.

Mental health charity MIND has some good tips on maintaining your state of well-being. MIND says: "it’s clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health for people of all ages." Make sure your work relationships don’t suffer because you are not sharing 'water cooler moments' in the office.

Your line manager should also make sure you get enough opportunities to mix with your colleagues, for example on training days, and should work to make sure they are open and approachable even though you are not physically in the office each day.

You have the right to stop work in the event of serious danger arising from the work you are doing, without affecting your employment rights. In the event of this, your employer should be informed as soon as possible.

In the event of an accident or injury, you should report this to your employer, who has a responsibility to record all personal injuries in an accident book.

If you feel that your home workplace is unsafe, and that your employer is not taking action to help you, you have the right (the same as any other worker) to contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to enforce safety. You would be expected, in most cases, to approach your employer or trade union first.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.