An Overview of OSHA’s Instruction on Home Offices
Whilst it is anticipated the majority of employees will eventually return to the office, it is expected the trend of more people working from home will continue for some time yet if not permanently, on a hybrid model.
All employers will of course want to be doing their utmost to ensure the safety and security of their employees, but the OSHA’s current take (as detailed below) on an employer’s legal obligations when asking employees to work from home (normal office work), does not specifically address this.
Under the OSHA General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act), every employer has a general duty to “furnish to each of his employees 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;”. This general duty of care (in principle) applies regardless of the location where the employees are working.
Obligations specific to Home Offices
Interestingly, OSHA does not extend such obligations to office work activities in a home-based worksite. The full instruction can be seen here with the headlines below.
– 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.
These obligations are limited, but the instruction was published in 2000 (pre Covid-19) and it would be interesting to see if this is updated with the growing trend of home based workers.
20th October 2021