With Americans working from home more 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.
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 ensure employees' place of employment are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
OSHA has issued guidance stating that it:
Workers' comp still in play
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. It's recommended that employers: