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Addressing the issue of safety at the home office

While it can be advantageous for many Pennsylvania residents to work from home, potential problems could arise when it comes to being injured on the job. However, with the introduction of a program in 1990 called telework, employers across the country who participate can be reassured that their work-at-home employees are kept safe.

Instead of regular inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employees who choose to work from their home office are responsible to adhere to a telework safety checklist instead. Such is the case for about 40 percent of the workforce of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Rockville, Maryland, who are telecommuters. In order for these employees to work for the company from their home offices, they must accept the obligations outlined in a telework agreement. In the agreement, the employee inspects the home working area and answers a questionnaire in confirmation that the home work space is safe. In this way, OSHA will not hold employers responsible for the home offices of its employees.

According to a representative for the National Safety Council, safety is the responsibility of the employee, although companies should take measures to educate their employees who work from home offices. Through the use of safety checklists, many health conditions, injuries and risks can be minimized or prevented among these employees. Companies can make telework agreements of their own for work-at-home employees to follow. The agreement should consist of a general safety checklist covering issues such as fire hazards, tripping hazards, security measures, electrical hazards and fire prevention. The agreement should also addresses how employees can safeguard their information.

Following workplace accidents, employers or insurance companies may delay the much-needed workers comp benefits that injured workers and their families need to help them during the recovery period. In such cases, an employee might consider retaining a local attorney to oversee the filing process and to ensure the employee receives the benefits he or she deserves in a timely fashion.

Source: Safety+Health magazine, "Working (safely) from home," Tom Musick, Jan. 25, 2015

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