08/27/2004

Health and Safety of Homeworkers: Good Practice Case Studies

The British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revised its guidance on
homeworking, originally in existence since 1996.

The findings from 12 selected organisations visited reveal a range of examples
of good practice in managing health and safety for homeworkers, which are
consistent with published HSE guidance. The findings also reflect a
fundamentally developmental process in achieving successful health and safety
management for homeworkers, with participating organisations being at different
stages of development. Many organisations, while having elements of good
practice, also have scope for further development.


The findings from the 12 organisations visited reveal a range of examples of
good practice in managing health and safety for homeworkers, which are
consistent with published HSE guidance. The findings also reflect a
fundamentally developmental process in achieving successful health and safety
management for homeworkers, with participating organisations being at different
stages of development. Many organisations, while having elements of good
practice, also have scope for further development.

A summary of good practice in health and safety management for homeworkers
across all four industrial sectors addresses: Sources of Health and Safety
Information, Communication, Risk Assessment, Equipment Provision and
Maintenance, Organisation, Information, Training, Incident Reporting,
Difficulties, and Benefits of Addressing Health and Safety for
Homeworkers.

Key findings presented in this summary include:


  • It is important that homeworkers have one or two key contacts within the
    organisation for maintaining regular communication. A number of companies had
    outwork co-ordinators specifically to deal with homeworkers. The identity of
    the outwork co-ordinator was reinforced by using their photograph on
    documentation and notice boards for homeworkers, as well as promoting the use
    of a dedicated telephone line and voice mail by which the outwork co-ordinator
    could be contacted.

  • It is good practice to conduct risk assessments that are specific to each
    homeworker's work environment, and involve the homeworker in the process of
    identifying potential hazards. Companies that have carried out risk assessments
    for individual homeworkers have addressed a range of significant hazards in the
    home workplace (e.g. electrical; manual handling; chemicals; ventilation; lone
    working/isolation), and include potential hazards that would not normally be
    found in a workplace such as pets.

  • Regular reviews of risk assessments should be carried out to ensure that
    there have been no significant changes. One organisation provides homeworkers
    with a home workplace inspection form to conduct their own risk assessment on a
    monthly basis. Similar reviews are also scheduled to be carried out on a three
    monthly basis by the homeworker's team leader. Risk assessments are also
    reviewed if the homeworker's circumstances change, such as pregnancy or a house
    move.

  • Providing and maintaining work equipment can help to ensure that
    homeworkers work safely as well as efficiently. Many companies go beyond
    providing the essential work materials and tools required to do the job.
    Additional equipment includes: tables; chairs; desk lamps; circuit breakers;
    smoke detectors; machine guards; masks; gloves; and first aid kits.

  • A lot of emphasis is put on supplying information to homeworkers, but it is
    also important to supply information on managing homeworkers to line
    management. Types of information that are useful include: competencies
    involved; how to manage high levels of trust and low levels of control; how to
    empower staff to work independently; information to help line managers support
    homeworkers and avoid potential consequences of lone working such as stress or
    isolation; and the setting of clear goals.

  • Any incidents affecting homeworkers need to be communicated to, and
    recorded by employers. This includes accidents and any 'near miss'
    occurrences. One company provides its homeworkers with a diary to record their
    hours worked and any problems or 'near miss' occurrences (e.g. breaking needle). These homeworkers are also
    provided with a dangerous occurrence/near miss report form and an accident
    report form.

  • A grey area exists for the health and safety management of homeworkers over
    the demarcation of health and safety responsibilities between the company and
    the homeworker, especially as the homeworker's property becomes the work
    environment. Several companies draw a plan or take a photograph of the area
    that is used for work, in order to demarcate the area of the property for which
    the risks will be assessed.

  • Companies employing homeworkers felt that addressing the health, safety and
    welfare of homeworkers contributes to a higher level of commitment and makes
    them feel valued. It also helps to ensure safe working practices and avoids the
    potential costs of interruptions to work output from ill-health or injury.

Further Information


AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work