As safe as houses? Working from home – safely!

Working-from-home
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    In recent years there has been an increasing trend towards partly or wholly working from home, and this has been further accelerated by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

    For this reason, it is important that the home office or workshop is not overlooked when it comes to fire safety. Employers need to remember that they remain liable for employees, even when working at home, so it is essential that risks are assessed and managed appropriately.

    Homes are generally more susceptible to fires - particularly injury and fatality fires - and since home working increases the hours of occupancy, it can therefore introduce additional risks.

    As a minimum, the employer should ensure that a homeworking employee is provided with suitable furniture, a phone, IT equipment and internet connection and most importantly, a fire extinguisher.

    Furniture

    Extra care should be taken with any office chairs being used at home. This is because while regulations are in place to ensure that domestic furniture is fire resistant and has a label attached to show that it meets these conditions, the regulations are slightly different for a workplace; so, an office chair may not be as fire resistant as one designed for use in the home. If you are an employer providing chairs for working at home, you must therefore ensure that they meet the Furniture and Furnishing (Fire Safety) Regulations.

    Electrical equipment

    Electrical equipment can increase the fire hazard substantially. Even if work equipment has been Portable Appliance Tested the simple fact of adding several extra appliances that can be running 8 hours a day elevates the risk – especially if there aren’t enough sockets and extension leads and multi socket adapters have to be used. You may need to consider adding greater capacity and sockets to your employees fixed electrical installation if the extra loading is going to be long term.

    You can use this helpful tool from the Electrical Safety First to work out if your sockets are overloaded Overloading Sockets | Electrical Safety First

    Smoke alarms

    Whilst your employees’ homes should already have smoke alarms on each landing/hallway it may be wise to add additional linked detectors to cover their workspace to give earlier warning.

    Emergency lighting as installed in commercial premises may be excessive – but a rechargeable torch that illuminates when the power fails is a more realistic consideration.

    Firefighting equipment

    With a smaller workplace there is a greater chance that if a fire occurs it will be noticed it in its earliest stages and so it would be wise to have the equipment on hand to deal with it – a fire blanket in the kitchen and a small powder or foam extinguisher in the hall will suit most risks, but if there is a lot of rechargeable and battery operated equipment (such as laptops and mobile phones) specialist extinguishers to slow down thermal runaway by cooling and encapsulating such as a Lith-Ex extinguisher might be a wise addition!

    And finally, some good housekeeping tips for safely working at home:

    • Keep the area around the desk clear
    • Make sure cables are not frayed or damaged and turn laptops and monitors off when not in use
    • Test smoke alarms weekly
    • At night, have a good routine of turning off lights and electrical items, closing doors to prevent the spread of fire and have an escape plan in the event of fire breaking out.

    Fire Depot has been the UK's favourite fire safety supplier for over 50 years. Our experienced team can offer advice and guidance about any product or fire safety application. For expert help and advice, please contact the Fire Depot team on 0330 999 2233, email us at sales@firedepot.co.uk or visit www.firedepot.co.uk to see our full range of fire safety products.

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