Are Businesses Responsible for Fire Safety & PAT Testing of Office Equipment for Home Workers?
For many people, the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on their working lives. For some, it’s actually been a positive thing, with hybrid and remote working eliminating or reducing the need for the grind of the daily commute, while also making it easier to fit home lives around working lives.
This new way of working has opened up some intriguing dilemmas that not everyone has necessarily got to grips with yet. For instance, should businesses be PAT testing company laptops and other electrical equipment that they have supplied for their employees to use at home?
This month, we’re taking a look at this to find out what businesses need to be doing legally – and what else they need to do where current legislation has yet to catch up with these changes to working practice.
PAT testing in the office
When everyone worked in the office, The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 meant that employers were required to ensure the safety of any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury. This was usually done through Portable Appliance Testing, generally known as PAT testing.
Interestingly, nowhere does it state in the regulations how employers should make appliances safe, who should be doing the checking or how often it should be done. Naturally, it is in the employer’s interest to make sure it happens regularly, as they would be liable for prosecution if such electrical equipment were found to be dangerous.
Is it less safe to work at home than in the office?
So it seems that the laws covering the safety of a company’s electrical equipment are not quite as stringent as many might have thought. If so, then it’s probable that the situation is going to be even less well managed when we’re working from home.
With safety measures that can be controlled in the office – such as making sure that sockets are not overloaded – less likely to be checked at home, the potential for electrical fires is almost certainly going to be greater.
And, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, more accidents happen in the home than anywhere else anyway. So what more can be done?
Home risk assessments
Even though there’s no legal requirement for businesses to regularly check the safety of the electrical equipment they supply, they have the same duty of care whether an employee is at home or in the office. The legislation in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 makes no mention of where the employee is based, while the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 say that “employers are responsible for the health and safety of homeworkers, as far as is reasonably practicable”.
So employers still need to make sure that their employees are working safely, regardless of where they’re based. It would be impractical and intrusive to carry out risk assessments in every remote employee’s home, but guidance and training should be given on how to carry out a risk assessment in your own working space at home.
That would naturally include fire safety measures, including:
- Making sure that sockets are not overloaded
- Checking that cables are in good condition
- Checking that air vents are not being obstructed by dust
- Turning off electrical equipment at the end of the day
However, it could be argued that employers have an even wider duty of care when supporting remote workers, being more proactive in offering training in other health and safety issues, and home-specific issues such as working while having children in the house.
Here at Scutum London, we’re experts in all kinds of fire safety training and can help your business provide the right kind of fire safety support to your remote employees, including carrying out effective fire risk assessments.
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