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Safety while telecommuting

As many California residents may know, the incidence of working from home has increased in the last few decades. Businesses and governmental agencies have recognized the benefits inherent in this situation. Since employers have a responsibility to keep employees safe at work, liability of staying safe while telecommuting has become a question for employees and employers alike.

California began a telecommuting program for state employees in the 1980s, after investigating its feasibility, and it proved to be popular. One concern of telecommuting that continues today is the subject of safety in the home office and the potential liability of the employer in the event of an accident while on office time. Some businesses address home worker safety by using a checklist that the employee must sign. The checklist covers items such as general safety, electrical hazards, security of office materials, inventories with serial numbers and other matters designed to improve safety.

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that employers may not be held liable for home workers' injuries and does not have any provision for home safety inspections, claims have been filed and won by individuals who were injured as they were conducting company business from the home. In one instance, a decorator working at home, walking to inspect materials in her garage, tripped and sued in court. The initial claim was denied, but the ruling was overturned by an appellate court.

An employee who is injured at home while working on job-related activities may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. Those who have been a victim of such an accident can consult with an attorney who has experience in these matters to determine how to proceed.

Source: Safety+Health magazine, "Working (safely) from home", Tom Musick, Jan. 25, 2015

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