Magazine article Risk Management

Home Office Ergonomics

Magazine article Risk Management

Home Office Ergonomics

Article excerpt

Last November, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration stirred up controversy with a letter to a company describing the agency's policy on employees working from home. Many pointed to the letter as evidence that OSHA was overstepping its authority. In response, OSHA officials repealed the note that indicated employers would be responsible for federal safety and health violations that occur in the home office of a telecommuting employee.

Businesses maintained that applying a thirty-year-old policy to modern workplace developments would dampen their enthusiasm for flexible work arrangements and possibly lead to an invasion of privacy rights.

But speaking to a Congressional subcommittee in January, Charles Jeffress, assistant secretary for occupational safety and health, clarified OSHA's objectives for monitoring home work. "OSHA holds employers responsible only for work activities in home workplaces other than home offices, for example, where hazardous materials, equipment or work processes are provided or required to be used in an employee's home," he stated. "We have not inspected offices in homes; we do not inspect offices in homes; and we have no intention of inspecting offices in homes. …

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