OSHA Formalizes Home Worker Rules

Home offices will not be inspected for violations of federal safety and health rules, OSHA confirmed Friday in a new compliance directive.

Those who work at home no longer need to worry about OSHA knocking on their doors.

Home offices will not be inspected for violations of federal safety and health rules, OSHA confirmed Friday in a new compliance directive issued about home-based work.

The directive, which provides guidelines to OSHA compliance officers who enforce such rules, also says that employers are not expected to conduct home inspections either.

"Family-friendly, flexible and fair work arrangements, including telecommuting, can benefit individual employees and their families, employers, and society as a whole," said the written directive, sent to regional OSHA offices.

"OSHA respects the privacy of people's homes, and we expect that employers will too," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress.

Though OSHA will not inspect home offices under any circumstances, the agency will, when asked, follow-up on complaints involving potentially hazardous factory work being performed in the home.

Examples include assembling electronics, using unguarded crimping machines, or handling potentially hazardous materials without adequate protection.

Under the new rules, inspections will take place in home manufacturing and similar operations only after the agency "receives a complaint or referral that indicates that a violation of a safety or health standard exists that threatens physical harm, or that an imminent danger exists, including reports of a work-related fatality.

In addition, inspections would be limited only to the employee's actual work activities and not the entire dwelling.

In January, amid criticism from corporate America and Capitol Hill, OSHA withdrew an advisory letter telling a Texas employer it was legally responsible for the safety of its at-home workers.

Nevertheless, Republicans in the House and Senate promised to investigate.

OSHA hopes its new formal policy will help to clarify the matter.

Some lawmakers said even with the new written guidelines, however, further action such as legislation may be needed to ensure the new policy on home offices could not be easily changed in the future.

The directive and Jeffress' Congressional testimony can be found on OSHA's home page at www.osha.gov

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