OSHA standards for teleworkers

OSHA Safety Requirements: Do They Apply to Remote Employees During Covid?

Covid-19 has changed how we live and work. As our society has evolved over these past several months to accommodate safe living and working conditions and prevent the spread of the virus, many businesses find themselves learning how to comply with new regulations in the workplace.

It’s no doubt that these are confusing times. There are guidelines from the CDC as well as individual state and county regulations.  We’ve all seen over the months that have passed our workforces laid off or transitioned wherever possible to remote working employees.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 33% of the working population worked from home in June due to the coronavirus outbreak. Another interesting trend is that working remotely may become the new normal for many employees after COVID-19.

Many companies have found that working remotely has more upsides than downsides across the balance sheets. But how does employee safety play into this growing work model?

What Does OSHA Require the Employer’s Role to Be in Remote Employees Safety?

OSHA has already addressed home-office workers.  In fact, they issued an OSHA Instruction covering this topic back in 2000. The short answer is that OSHA doesn’t inspect home offices. From CPL 2-0.125 Section VIII Background:

“OSHA respects the privacy of the home and has never conducted inspections of home offices.”

OSHA Has Made Three Crystal Clear Statements in This Instruction:

  • OSHA will not conduct inspections of employees’ home offices.
  • OSHA will not hold employers liable for employees’ home offices and does not expect employers to inspect the home offices of their employees.
  • If OSHA receives a complaint about a home office, the complainant will be advised of OSHA’s policy. If an employee makes a specific request, OSHA may informally let employers know of complaints about home office conditions, but will not follow-up with the employer or employee.

Employer Reporting Requirements

  • Employers who are currently required to keep work-related illness and injury records: Are still required to keep those records. The injury or illness happening in the home does not waive the record-keeping responsibility.
  • The injury or illness does still have to qualify:  It occurred while the employee was on the clock and it was directly related to the employee’s duties.

Employer Responsibilities

In a recent article by the National Law Review (NLR), they suggested employers develop and maintain safety procedures they want their staff to observe when working at home as well as safety resources for their remote staff.

As the NLR so sagely pointed out, “A number of legal and practical issues arise when workers telecommute, especially in the COVID-19 world. So be sure to involve senior management and an appropriate employment law attorney when making decisions and implementing best practices in addressing the issues.”

Certified Forklift TrainingOSHA Training Is Still Required

Employers are still required to provide all safety training indicated for their industry to their employees at their expense. 

It is important that employers not confuse safety inspections and safety training.

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