I’m home based and work on my own – Does health and safety law apply to me?

This is a question I am often asked and for the self-employed, the answer can be no.

Since October 2015, if you are self-employed and your work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others, you are exempt from the law.

The law being  The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015.

What is meant by self-employed?

With regard to health and safety law, self-employed means that you do not work under a contract and work only for yourself.

What is a ‘risk to the health and safety of others’?

This is the likelihood of someone else being harmed or injured as a consequence of your work activity.

You must consider whether your work activity creates a risk or not:

  • Do you work in an environment that has potential to cause harm, such as a garage or workshop?
  • Do you work with any equipment, materials or substances that can cause harm? Does your work activity create noise, dust or fumes? Could someone be burnt, scalded, crushed, trip or fall?

If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of the above then the law is likely to apply, as your work activity have the potential to pose a risk to the health and safety of others.

If you are self-employed and work in the following sectors, then the law still applies:

  • Agriculture
  • Forestry
  • Asbestos work
  • Construction
  • Gas work
  • Genetically modified organisms
  • Railways

The law also applies if you employ anyone.

Low risk self-employed activities where the law does not apply include:

  • A Writer / Publisher who works at home – If you are writing publicity articles for a customer, the law does not apply, as it is highly unlikely someone will be harmed or injured from this activity. However, if you are writing a manual, which someone subsequently uses to operate machinery, the law does apply. The detail included in the manual and how that is interpreted by the user, will have an impact on the level of risk.
  • A Photographer taking photographs of individuals, weddings and special occasions.
  • An Accountant preparing a clients accounts.
  • A Hairdresser who only washes and cuts hair. However, if bleaching agents or similar chemicals are used then the law does apply, as these have potential to cause harm if they are not used correctly.
  • A Dressmaker working at home altering garments and making soft furnishings.
  • An Artist producing cards, gifts and pictures for sale at markets and fairs.

There are, of course, many more examples.

More information can be found athttp://www.hse.gov.uk/self-employed/index.htm


4 thoughts on “I’m self-employed – Does health & safety law apply to me?

  1. Interesting article. I work out of a home office, and often welcome clients into my home. If we spend time chatting about work over a coffee in the kitchen, for example, wouldn’t that count as a risk?

    1. Thanks for your feedback Martin. Arguably there is risk in everything we do, however, it is the level of risk that is important. Risk is the combination of the likelihood of a hazardous event occurring and the consequence (or severity) of the hazardous event. Both in this case will be very low (assuming you have a conventional kitchen and method for making coffee) and, therefore, I would argue your activities are not posing a risk to your clients.

  2. I believe this change to be a sensible approach to Risk Management. However, it is still important that the self-employed give consideration to their own Health and Safety. For example, DSE and Manual Handling.

    1. Thank you for your comments Ann and you make an important point. Despite being exempt from the law, it is still very important that self-employed workers are not complacent about health and safety. It is important they give proper consideration to the risks they could be exposed to, such as poor posture, as a result of working hunched over a laptop.

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