We have many staff who are now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Is a fire extinguisher in the home a mandatory requirement seeing as it is a workplace, and if so, who is responsible to purchase and maintain it?
There is no mandatory requirement under the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) to provide fire extinguishers to employees who work in a home office, unless they are working with hazardous chemicals, in which case, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has a duty to provide fire protection and firefighting equipment.
Generally, in respect of a workplace, including a home office, a PCBU will need to conduct a risk assessment, then implement reasonably practicable control measures capable of eliminating, where possible, or otherwise minimising the risks identified.
Whether a PCBU is required to provide fire extinguishers to employees who work in a home office will depend on whether there is a likely risk of injury from fire that can reasonably be controlled by the provision of a fire extinguisher. Subject to cost, providing fire extinguishers would be a reasonably practicable step to minimise a risk of fire, and in which case, the PCBU will be responsible for ensuring it is properly installed, tested and maintained as per section 359 (1)(c) of the Work Health and Safety Regulations.