How should an employer carry out a risk assessment for a homeworker?

Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242) requires employers to "make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of [their] employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work". This duty is not restricted to risks in the workplace itself; employers have a duty to conduct a risk assessment where an employee is working from home.

How the employer should conduct the assessment will depend on the nature of the work. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate for a manager or health and safety officer to attend the employee's home to carry out the risk assessment. However, in many cases it will be "suitable and sufficient" for the employee to carry out the assessment under the direction of the employer.

The employer should inform the employee of potential risks, depending on the nature of the work, and ask him or her to inform it of any risks that he or she identifies. For example, if the employee's job involves computer work, the employer should provide the employee with information on the need for an appropriate space in which to work, with a suitable desk or table, chair, lighting, screen and keyboard, and how to set the equipment up appropriately to avoid health risks that could arise from prolonged computer use.

The employer could provide the employee with a questionnaire to complete, but should ensure that any potential risks that are specific to the nature of the particular employee's home or type of work are covered. If any risks are identified, the employer should discuss with the employee what action is required to avoid the risk and should ensure that this is implemented effectively. It may be necessary in some circumstances for a manager or health and safety officer to visit the employee's home to assess the risks that the employee has identified and, if necessary, find ways to avoid them.

The identification of potential risks should be an ongoing process, so the employer should encourage the employee to report any incidents or problems that occur while he or she is working at home, for example if he or she is experiencing back pain while using the computer.

The employer is responsible only for the equipment that it supplies. It should inform the employee that he or she is responsible for risks arising from his or her own equipment or premises. For example, the employer is not responsible for safety issues arising from the wiring of the employee's house.