If you have staff working from home and using equipment like monitors and computers, do you still need to arrange PAT (electrical equipment) testing?
This article will explain your position as an employer and how you can continue to keep your employees safe outside of the office.
Many companies have relaxed their stance on remote working, with employees proving that they can be productive outside of an office environment over the last few months.
Some companies are even considering abandoning the office entirely. At Hawkesworth, we’ve seen at least three companies on LinkedIn announce that they are getting rid of their office space and switching to working from home permanently.
There are a lot of benefits to working from home. It’s better for the environment, reduces office costs, improves staff flexibility, and as your staff can work from anywhere, it means you can recruit from a wider talent pool.
However, just because employees are out of sight doesn’t mean that they should be out of mind.
As you may already know, the employer is responsible for an employee’s health, safety and well-being when they are in the office, in line with The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974). If an employee is working from home and using the company’s equipment, this still applies.
(1) It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of an employer’s duty under the preceding subsection, the matters to which that duty extends include in particular—
(d) so far as is reasonably practicable as regards any place of work under the employer’s control, the maintenance of it in a condition that is safe and without risks to health and the provision and maintenance of means of access to and egress from it that are safe and without such risks;
(e) the provision and maintenance of a working environment for his employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.
This means that you can still be liable if your staff injure themselves away from your office.
The dangers of working from home
Although some people do have designated home office space to work in, many other people have to make do with any space and resources available to them, whether that is the kitchen table, garden shed or propped up on the sofa in the living room.
We’ve even heard stories of some people responding to work emails with their laptops sat on an ironing board!
Consumer charity Electrical Safety First carried out some research and found that two-thirds of home workers were using extension leads or adaptors, which can cause overheating and fire if overloaded. Even more concerning, 44% of home workers are ‘daisy-chaining’ their extension leads, plugging one into another to increase reach.
Laptops and phones can also pose an overheating risk when charging and should not be left on a bed or soft surface as this can increase the risk of fires.
The Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) requires that any electrical equipment that could cause injury is maintained in a safe condition:
(2) As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger.
(4) Any equipment provided under these Regulations for the purpose of protecting persons at work on or near electrical equipment shall be suitable for the use for which it is provided, be maintained in a condition suitable for that use, and be properly used.
The easiest way to do this is to ask your employers to carry out visual checks of the appliances they use to see if there is any damage.
However, this means you are reliant on your employees to decide if the appliances are fit for use, and this does not account for any internal damage that may not be visible.
PAT testing is the best way to ensure that printers, monitors and extension leads used, whether in the office or at home, are safe to use and will not pose a fire risk. All work is carried out by a competent engineer, and you are supplied with a list of all assets so you can see at a glance what has passed or failed inspection.
Case study: Home PAT testing with NHBC
If you are carrying out PAT testing in the office, your engineer comes in once a year to check your electrical equipment. Carrying out PAT testing is a little bit trickier if your staff are working from home, but it can still be done.
We have been working with NHBC for several years. NHBC has always supported their employees to work flexibly, giving them the option to work from home if practical. All staff working from home have full access to all of their office systems, including computers and phones.
We attend many of NHBC’s employees’ homes to carry out their PAT testing. As we have engineers based all across the country, we can attend any location, at a time convenient to the member of staff.
All of our engineers are DBS checked and stringently follow all social distancing measures, ensuring peace of mind when they come to visit.
The rest of the PAT testing is carried out at team meetings in NHBC’s office buildings. Staff come to the office, bringing in their equipment. Our engineers conduct the testing while staff have their meeting, and they can take the equipment back home with them once the meeting is over, safe in the knowledge that they are safe to carry on working at home.
So to answer the question initially posed at the start of this article, as an employer you are obligated to ensure that the electrical equipment your staff use will not put them in danger, whether they are in the office or at home. PAT testing is proven to be one of the most effective ways you can do this.