With many employees working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may be wondering about workers’ home offices and OSHA. Well, don’t worry, home offices are not subject to OSHA inspections.
OSHA won’t come knocking on the doors to your employees’ homes, looking for all sorts of violations an employer would have little to no control over.
Defining ‘work at home’
On Feb. 25, 2000, the agency provided guidance to its compliance officers on inspection policies and procedures for employee home-based worksites.
The agency defines home-based worksite as “the areas of an employee’s personal residence where the employee performs work of the employer.”
It defines a home office as “office work activities in a home-based worksite (e.g., filing, keyboarding, computer research, reading, writing). Such activities may include the use of office equipment (e.g., telephone, facsimile machine, computer, scanner, copy machine, desk, file cabinet).”
Home offices won’t be inspected
When it comes to home offices, the guidance directive says OSHA will not:
- conduct inspections of employees’ home offices, or
- hold employers liable for employees’ home offices, and doesn’t expect employers to inspect an employee’s home office.
Should OSHA receive a complaint regarding a home office, the complainant will be advised of the policy, and if an employee makes a specific request, the agency may informally let the employer know about the complaint, but it won’t follow-up with either the employer or the employee.
Other home-based worksites
As for other types of home-based worksites, such as home manufacturing operations, OSHA will only conduct an inspection:
- if a complaint indicates a violation of a safety or health standard exists that threatens physical harm, or
- an imminent danger exists, including reports of a work-related fatality.
Even then, the scope of the inspection is limited to employee work activities, not the home or its furnishings.
If an employer is required by the OSH Act to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses, it will continue to be responsible to do so even if the injury or illness occurs in a home office, as long as it work-related and meets the usual recordability criteria.
Need more information?
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