Teleworker Safety

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					Teleworker Safety
Susan Harrington, MS, PE President, Harrington Software Associates, Inc. Warrenton, VA
January 31, 2005
This project was prepared pursuant to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Grant Number 2 R44 OH007461. The statements and conclusions herein are those of Harrington Software Associates, Inc. and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the sponsoring agency.

• Introduction
• Safety Hazards

• Prevention
• Responsibility

• Safety Resources

Corporate Space vs. Home Office
• Corporate or Federal Office Space
– – – – Occupational safety and health office Fire marshals and electrical inspectors Purchasing department Building owner / maintenance shop

• Teleworking Home Office
– Teleworker

Why is safety important?
• Teleworkers set up their own home offices.
• Without guidance, teleworkers can create home office hazards.
– For example:
• Incorrect monitor and keyboard placement • Not enough or the wrong type of lighting

• Electrical overload, use of extension cords
• Smoking and candles in home offices

Teleworker Safety
Teleworkers must be their own “OSHA inspectors.” Awareness is the key.

Teleworker Safety Hazards
• In today’s presentation, we will discuss:
– Ergonomic hazards – Fire & electrical hazards

• Other safety issues to consider:
– Indoor air quality and radon

– Accidents/security/disaster planning

• What is ergonomics?
– Ergonomics is the science that seeks to change work or working conditions to suit the worker. – Ergonomics means fitting your job to you.

• Ergonomic design of work space can help you work more safely, comfortably, and efficiently in your home office.

Poor Office Design
Poor office design can result in:
– – – – – – – Carpal tunnel syndrome Tendonitis Stiff neck Back sprain Lower back pain Eye strain / fatigue Headaches

The Classic Typing Position

graphic from: The Office Ergonomics Kit, by Dan MacLeod

Ergonomics Prevention Ideas
• Take frequent rest and exercise breaks from typing. • Keep everything within easy reach.
• Use a telephone headset and copy holder.

• • • • Replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs. Consider installing a dimmer switch. Use adjustable desk lamps to provide task lighting. If you use a computer often, dim the ceiling lighting and use your task lighting for reading paper documents. • Position your monitor to avoid light sources. Be sure your monitor is not directly facing or directly behind a window. • Use window blinds or shades to reduce glare and adjust for varying outdoor lighting conditions.

Fire & Electrical Safety
• 206 home office fires each year • Resulting in 2 deaths, 12 injuries, and $7 million in property damage
(Photo courtesy of the Turn of River Fire Department)

Fire Safety Prevention Ideas
• Install a smoke alarm in the home office. • Avoid smoking in cluttered office areas. • Keep a multipurpose ABC fire extinguisher in the office area and learn how to use it properly. • Don’t use space heaters. • Don’t place papers or other combustibles on or near the radiators. • Never leave cooking unattended. • Be sure you have at least two ways out of your home office.

Electrical Safety Prevention Ideas
• Don’t overload electrical circuits. Have an electrician evaluate the system or add outlets if necessary. • Avoid using extension cords. • Never nail or staple cords to the wall, baseboard, or other object. • Never place cords under carpets or furniture. • Use correctly wired, three-prong grounded outlets.

Electrical Safety Prevention Ideas
• If your office equipment repeatedly blows a fuse or trips a circuit breaker, have an electrician evaluate the circuits that feed the home office. • Use a surge suppressor to protect against hardware damage from electrical surges.
• If an electrical appliance smokes or smells unusual, unplug it immediately and have it serviced before using it again.

Who’s responsible for teleworker safety?
– OSHA? – Employer? – Employee?

OSHA Instruction on Home-Based Worksite Inspections (February 25, 2000):
– OSHA will not conduct inspections of employees' home offices. – OSHA will not hold employers liable for employees' home offices, and does not expect employers to inspect the home offices of their employees.

Research Grant
• Phase II SBIR funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health • Grant Purpose: – To identify safety and health issues that affect home teleworkers. – To develop and field test a safety training program for teleworkers and telework managers. • For additional information, contact: – Susan Harrington, (540) 349-8074,

Safety Resources
• Your occupational safety and health office • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – • Occupational Safety and Health Administration – • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – • National Electrical Safety Foundation (NESF) – • National Safety Council –

Safety Resources
• Environmental Protection Agency – • GSA/OPM Website – • The Telework Coalition – • The Office Ergonomics Kit, by Dan MacLeod

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