Colsa Insurance Agency, Inc. Blog
As more Americans work from home than ever before, many employers are wondering about their obligations under OSHA as well as how to reduce the chances that workers may be injured while telecommuting.
Obviously, the chances of an injury when working from home are small. The most common issue that is likely to arise is long-term injuries from poor workstation design, which can result in carpal tunnel syndrome and other stress and ergonomic injuries that develop over time.
For the most part, employers should approach workplace safety for telecommuting workers as they would safety for office workers, particularly workstation design and arrangement (ergonomics) as well as work scheduling and distribution.
Duties under OSHA
OSHA's General Duty Clause applies to any place an employer has staff working, be that at the company's facilities or worksites, at a customer's worksite, or even if they work from home.
Under the clause, employers have a general duty to "furnish to each of his employee's employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees."
Fortunately, most workplace safety specialists say that employers have little responsibility in ensuring a safe workplace. In fact, OSHA has issued guidance stating that it:
Workers' comp still in play
While that is good news, employers are still responsible for any injuries an employee suffers while working from home under workers' compensation laws.
For an injury to be considered work-related it must:
With that in mind, employers do have an obligation to ensure that a home worksite is safe in order to prevent injuries, even if OSHA does not require it.
The international law firm of Foley & Lardner, LLP recommends that employers:
While you as an employer are not required under OSHA regulations to inspect your workers' home's for compliance, it is a good idea to give them guidelines for how to set up their home office and also work with them to supply any needed furniture or accessories they would need to safely carry out their work tasks.
You may also want to consider asking them to install a smoke alarm in their home and that they have a plan to evacuate in case of fire or other emergency. Also if they have a lot of electrical equipment, there should be sufficient ventilation.