The workers’ comp risks when employees work from home

The number of employees who work remotely, especially from home, continues to grow year after year.  For the boss, human resources, and risk management this will sometimes pose interesting situations.  These individuals are still employees and represent your company.  As such they should have appropriate supervision to assure that the employees still comply with all the necessary laws and regulations governing their work.

Another very important issue is that these employees are covered under the workers’ compensation laws and insurance.  However, it is seldom that the employer sends representatives to the employee’s workspace to be sure it conforms to OSHA regulations and has general safety precautions.

This includes such incidents as tripping and falling, repetitive motions that cause carpal tunnel syndrome, and even a faulty desk chair that collapses sending the employee to the emergency room.  These situations in a traditional workplace are easily mitigated when supervisory or management personnel see a problem and address it to prevent accidents or injuries.  There can be other issues that will cause an employee to not work as safely as he or she should.

To begin with, employers should make every effort to find out exactly what the home workspace looks like.  That could mean having a company representative physically visit the home office.  It could also include the employee submitting a detailed video and photos.  With this information in hand, the risk management person can address poor lighting, ergonomics, or other situations that could be potentially dangerous.  With instructions for correction, the changes also need to be documented.

Company’s written policies should provide that it has the right to inspect the remote location to assure compliance.  One of the conditions in those protocols should be that the home office be as separate as possible from the rest of the home and family.  This will serve the dual purpose of making sure that toys are not inadvertently left in a place that could cause a fall, and to confirm the security of the information or projects the employee is working on.

Open communication is key.  That means incorporating casual conversation into the regular business chats.  Asking how the employee is feeling or actively listening for any comments about sore wrists or recent mishaps.  It is simpler to take care of issues before they become major concerns.

For other tips about workers’ compensation issues relating to offsite employees, call us at (407) 272-1976.  We are happy to help you make good business decisions.