Concerns Raised Over Home Working After ‘Laptop Fire’

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Concerns have been raised about working from home after a staff member blamed a company’s laptop for starting a fire in her house

Concerns have been raised about working from home after a staff member blamed her company’s laptop for causing a fire at her thatched cottage that resulted in more than £350,000 damages.

59-year-old Eileen Visser, a school inspector is, according to the Daily Mail, suing her former employer Ofsted in the High Court for breaching safety regulations. The court case could have serious implications for the almost 700,000 Britons who work from home.

Visser claims that the laptop she was given so that she could work from home was faulty, and she complained about overheating problems. Two weeks prior to this, Visser had been issued with a replacement battery, but the problem apparently continued.

Tech Advice

According to the Mail, tech staff told her when the computer overheated it was safe to leave it switched on and wait for the internal fan to cool it down. Visser claims eight other Ofsted employees had experienced similar problems.

When her machine overheated, Visser apparently decided take her dog for a walk. But when she returned home later, her grade II-listed cottage was on fire.

The fire badly damaged the cottage in long Marston, North Yorkshire. The repair bill cost £359,144, but Visser’s insurers (NFU Mutual) only paid out only £249,813.

Despite having retired, Visser was forced to take out a mortgage to pay the difference. Her court action against Ofsted is claiming more than £100,000 for the outstanding balance.

Home Work Implications

“The case is complicated and has very serious implications for home working,” husband John Visser is quoted by the Mail as saying.

Visser’s solicitors are claiming in court that Ofsted breached thirteen rules governing working from home. This includes being negligent or in breach of its duty under the 1998 Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations and the 1999 Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

Whilst it is not unknown for laptops to overheat, it is rare that they catch fire. In this case, the fire investigators believe the fire began in the study and was “probably caused by a fault in the laptop, monitor, docking station or printer.”

Ofsted is contesting the lawsuit and does not not accept liability.

Last month Ofcom research found that 71 percent of Britons are now online, and more and more people are now working from home. Recent tube strikes and the ash cloud incident early this year, has only increased employee pressure for home working. But the outcome of this case could have consequences, with companies unwilling to be exposed to any potential legal and financial risks.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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