Telecommuting (working from home) is growing in popularity. According to Global Work Play Analytics, the number of U.S. workers who do at least 50% of their work at home or some location other than a central office grew by 115% between 2005 and 2015. As of 2015, there were approximately 4 million telecommuting professionals. While not everyone can work from home, 56% of U.S. employees have jobs that are telecommuting compatible, meaning there is room for growth.
Working from home offers workers and employers many advantages. There are commute and wardrobe savings, along with work flexibility for the employee. The employer gets increased productivity. With such benefits, it is easy to see why it’s popular. But it isn’t all positive. From a Workers’ Compensation standpoint, telecommuting presents some problems. While the work environment has changed, many of the same hazards still apply along with some additional ones. Addressing these risks can be challenging since there isn’t a Human Resources department or maintenance staff on site. Therefore, mitigation efforts fall upon the worker’s shoulders. While it may seem daunting, a little effort applied to surveying your premise can ensure your home is a safe work environment.
Eliminate Trip, Slip, and Fall Hazards
- Incidents involving trip, slip, and falls are the second leading cause of Workers’ Compensation claims in the United States. This is why housekeeping is essential.
- Make sure to keep floors clear.
- Rugs should have an anti-slip backing.
- Arrange power chords and communication cables in a manner where they are away from foot traffic and covered.
- Clean any spills or areas of moisture accumulation immediately.
Ergonomics are Essential.
Musculoskeletal disorders (injuries involving the muscles, nerves, tendons, and supporting structures) are common injuries experienced in any work environment. Such disorders include carpal tunnel syndrome, neck tension, and tendonitis. Common causes of these injuries are repetitive movements, overuse of muscles, and prolonged periods of immobilization. The setup of your work equipment and layout of your office are critical. Keep in mind your physical capabilities and limitations. Adjust your workstation to your body and not your body to the workstation.
Fire Protection and Life Safety
- Fires do not take breaks for employee work hours. Purchase a fire extinguisher and keep it in an easily accessible unobstructed location.
- Check smoke alarms monthly.
- Ensure walkways, aisles, and doorways are unobstructed. In the event of a fire, these are your means of escape from a building.
While no one is there to directly assist, you are not without help. There are many checklists available that can help with the hazard identification aspect. While a checklist is an excellent guide, every workplace environment is different and may have items missing from the list that are prevalent in your particular situation. Your HR department should also be able to assist with equipment and procedural needs.
Remember to eliminate trip, slip, and fall hazards, focus on ergonomics, and ensure adequate fire protection and life safety so that you can work from home safely. A little effort can go a long way to providing a safe working environment.
What challenges do you face while working from home?