Many businesses are permitting employees to work from home in response to COVID-19 and many more will do so particularly as states like New York have and/or will be restricting the number of employees at the worksite.
Does this mean the employer must inspect an employee’s home to ensure that it is a safe and healthy work environment under OSHA? The answer is generally no. In 2002, OSHA provided guidance regarding telecommuting available here.
In it, OSHA states it “strongly supports telecommuting and telework.” OSHA continues by stating that it “respects the privacy of the home and has never conducted inspections of home offices” although notes that certain types of work at home can be hazardous, e.g., assembly of electronics; casting lead head jigs for fishing lures; use of unguarded crimping machines; and handling adhesives without protective gloves.
Under its guidance, OSHA states, among other things, that it will not conduct inspections of employee’s hone offices, will not hold employers liable for employee’s home offices, and does not expect employers to inspect the home offices of their employees.
However, businesses are reminded that still have recordkeeping obligations for injuries or illnesses, regardless of whether they occur at the workplace, in a home office or elsewhere provided they are work-related and otherwise need to be recorded.