Oh, Oh, OSHA!

In the first week of the new century the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the US Department of Labor released a statement to the effect that OSHA's rules for traditional offices also applied to home offices of telecommuters. The new rules caused an enormous outcry from a variety of sources, including shouts of outrage by some members of Congress. We were flooded with requests for interviews, to the extent that, by the end of the first week of the year, we were almost one week behind in our schedule; this even after OSHA rescinded its statement the following day. If you wish to see the gory details, you may download a copy of the content of the letter (it's about 70K).

Our responses to the various inquiries can be summarized as follows:

In short, the OSHA flap was a lot like the Y2K situation: lots of heat, and maybe some money spent, but not much there there. By the way, on 27 January 2000, OSHA announced that it had no jurisdiction over home offices—from total control to hands off in less than a month!

In our opinion, employers do have responsibility for informing employees of the facts about safety in home offices, and for providing assistance—including equipment, furniture, and aid in making any necessary wiring modifications, as stated above—even though OSHA appears to have abdicated its role.

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Last modified: Tuesday January 3, 2012.

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