Providing a Safe Work From Home Environment

Lady at her home office

Safety concerns from an office in the home can be addressed through adjustments to lighting, equipment and procedures.

Safety Concerns

Minus the commuting/travel, an office in the home still has safety concerns, much like working in an office building. Ideally, the home office should be in a separate room or area of the home set aside for this purpose. Ventilation, heating and air-conditioning should be provided for employee comfort.

The employee’s supervisor should discuss expectations for the following: working hours, office equipment supplied by the company, communication connections, security protection for company documents, electronic data and compensation adjustments. Expectations should be in writing and signed by the employee.

As a follow-up, the supervisor should complete the below inspection of the home work site to ensure that it meets expectations and all safety concerns. The supervisor should document this inspection.

Employee Ergonomics Evaluation

  • Provide a good ergonomically designed chair.
  • Check desk height.
  • Verify that the computer keyboard is ergonomically designed. Since working greater than two hours per day on a laptop computer keyboard is not ergonomically safe, offer to provide a docking station for improved ergonomics.
  • Check that the computer monitor is positioned for line-of-sight at the top three lines of the monitor and within a comfortable viewing distance.
  • Verify that the mouse is within minimal reach.
  • The printer/fax machine should be within easy reach. The telephone should be within reach (with a headset available for phone calls over two minutes).
  • Workstation setup and exercises are available.

Lighting

  • Lighting levels should be sufficient for the type of work performed; 70 to 200 foot-candles.

Electrical

  • The use of electrical extension cords should be discouraged. Instead, provide for sufficient permanent electrical outlets, fuse protected (15 to 20 amp) and use a high-quality power surge protection strip.
  • Turn off the computer and electrical equipment when not in use. This could be altered when information may be received 24 hours a day.

Trip/Fall

  • Remove tripping hazards from floor area and provide smooth floor covering. Rugs should lay flat without electrical cords. Books/paper/office supplies should be placed on stable shelving off the floor.

File Cabinets and Shelves

  • Secure cabinets and shelves to each other or the wall to prevent tipping. When file drawers are open, they should not block the walkway toward the exit.

Emergency

  • An ABC rated fire extinguisher should be mounted near the exit path from the work area.
  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) should be available for office printing inks, copy machine, fax machine, etc. Review for safe handling, use of personal protective equipment and exposure prevention actions.
  • Establish an emergency call-in procedure to supervisor.