Electrical Safety When Working From Home

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DSE Assessment

Working from home brings a lot of staff members flexibility and freedom. It can be a great option for many teams. However, remote working also poses new challenges when it comes to health and safety. 

Unfortunately, electrical safety in the home is often overlooked, with employees putting themselves at unnecessary risk. If you work remotely — or manage a hybrid or remote team — a home electrical safety check is essential. 

From PAT testing to everyday checks, our home electrical safety tips are here to keep remote workers happy and healthy

Electrics at home: what are the risks?

Electricity is a necessary resource for a majority of home workers. From lighting to computer monitors and other display screen equipment, it’s the power many of us need to get our jobs done. But electrical currents can cause damage to equipment and property and cause injuries — in some cases, it can even kill. Yet, worryingly, research shows that home electrical safety should be higher on the list of priorities for home workers. For example, did you know that one in three are unaware of the risks caused by overloaded sockets?

Employers have a legal responsibility for the health and safety of remote workers, making electrical safety at home in the UK a top priority. The most common risks include the following:

  • Fire risks from faulty installations or equipment
  • Burns or electric shock
  • Explosions caused by unsuitable equipment
  • Overloaded extension leads or sockets
  • Outdated, defective or poor-quality wiring
  • Electrical sockets near water
  • Hidden cables presenting a trip hazard

Under the current Health and Safety England (HSE) guidelines, employers must undertake a risk assessment of the work environment in relation to electrical safety at home. Actions should include a DSE assessment and ensuring electrical equipment is fit for purpose as per the HSE Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999.

What is PAT testing, and is it necessary for home workers?

You may have seen PAT testing stickers in the office or even at school. But did you know PAT testing is relevant when working from home, too? 

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) ensures that any electrical equipment used in a work environment is safe and fit for purpose. PAT testing combines a visual inspection with electrical testing and must be carried about by a competent person with the proper testing equipment.

Testing should take into account the following: 

  • The type of equipment
  • How often it's used
  • Where it’s used
  • Whether it’s portable

Employers have a responsibility for the electrical safety of their employers — both in the office and when WFH. This responsibility includes maintaining all electrical equipment provided for home use in a safe working condition. Although PAT testing isn’t mandatory, it should be included in any electrical safety strategy and is covered by the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. 

There are no specific regulations for testing frequency. As an example recommendation, however, guidelines suggest inspecting laptops every five years.

What are 3 basic precautions for electrical safety when working at home?

The work-from-home environment should be as safe as the office, whether you work on a dining room table or in a dedicated space. For basic level precautions, follow these three home electrical safety tips: 

  1. Check that electrical equipment is fit for use and constructed so it doesn’t become unsafe. If it’s been supplied by an employer, it should have been PAT tested. Regularly carry out visual inspections to ensure your laptop or smartphone is in good condition. Can you see any frayed cables, exposed wiring and cracks or damage to the casing?
  1.  Check the electrical supply is safe for use and suitable for your equipment. You may wish to hire an electrician to test your home electrical supply for faulty wiring, broken or burnt sockets or exposed cables.
  1. Check your home office for fire and trip hazards — you’ll also want to assess the quality of the electrical installation.

 Working from home: electrical safety inspection checklist

Regarding home electrical safety, it’s vital that remote workers should ensure equipment is fit for purpose and is being used in a safe manner. We’ve put together a handy home electrical safety inspection checklist to follow.

Is all electrical equipment connected to a surge protector?

All workplace electrical equipment should be connected to a surge protector to defend your laptop, smartphone or tablet against damaging voltage spikes. Look for a surge protector with USB ports, multiple sockets and a power switch. Any surge protector should be wall-mounted if used in a high-traffic area.

Are all plugs, cables, and sockets in good condition? 

Check plugs, cables and sockets regularly for signs of wear and tear, including:

  • Damage or fraying to leads and cables
  • Bare wires showing through a laptop casing or socket
  • Damage to a plug socket, including cracking, scorching or burn marks
  • Melted plastic or damage to the case of your laptop or smartphone
  • Any damage to a plug, including loose pins or exposed wires or insulation 

Make sure there aren’t any daisy-chained extension cords or power strips

It can be tempting to plug one extension cord or power strip into another to access more sockets across the room. Known as ‘daisy-chaining,’ this technique can be extremely dangerous.

Instead, use a longer extension cable or move your desk closer to the existing sockets. Extension cords should never be a long-term solution, so consider installing extra sockets for safety.

Avoid overloading extension cords 

Sometimes, of course, using extension cords is unavoidable. And running a laptop, phone charger, and display screen should be fine. However, always check the maximum wattage to avoid overloading and overheating.

Are all cables secured under a desk or along a wall, away from heat sources?

Be smart when you plug in, and ensure that all cables are secured along a wall or under your desk to avoid creating a trip hazard. It’s also vital to keep cables and extension leads well away from heat sources — a high temperature could lead to melting. 

Switch off any electrical devices that aren’t in use 

Switching off electrical devices when not in use saves energy and reduces the risk of electrical shock or an exploding battery. Look for a surge strip with an on/off switch to simplify powering down.

Be smart about charging

First, check that you're using the correct charger for your equipment — either the original charger or a recommended replacement. Fakes can be a fire risk. Then charge your device on a flat, non-flammable surface, never on a bed where your device could overheat and cause a fire. Finally, unplug when the battery is fully charged. Overcharging can damage the battery and could be a fire risk.

Ensure your remote workers are safe with Workhappy 

As an employer, it’s essential to look out for your team’s safety both in the office and when working at home. From providing the right workstation set-up and supporting wellbeing to managing electrical safety, you have a responsibility.

At Workhappy, we’re here to help you provide the best working environment for your remote, hybrid, and onsite employees. Whether you need a comprehensive DSE assessment or want to arrange a desk massage day, get in touch with the Workhappy team to learn more about our services.