We had a strong response to our Jan. 17 story “Are you responsible for your telecommuters’ safety?” From the numerous e-mails and postings we received, it’s obvious that this telecommuting issue hit close to home.

While most of you disagreed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s position that employers are responsible for their teleworkers’ safety, others saw merit to the idea that employers should help prevent workplace injuries.
It seems that most of our readers who responded to our article were on track. On Jan. 25, Charles Jeffress, assistant secretary for occupational safety and health for the U.S. Department of Labor, told Republican Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming that companies are not responsible for maintaining teleworkers’ safety at home. “OSHA will not hold employers liable for work activities in employees’ home offices,” Jeffress said. The message is expected to be delivered to both the House of Representatives and the Senate this week.
Before last week’s news, many of you told us you worried about how OSHA’s previous policy interpretation would affect telecommuters. Here’s a look at some of your responses to our first article:

“Absolutely ridiculous”
Several readers were adamant about their opposition to the proposed OSHA policy. Devon Johnston, for example, thought OSHA’s interpretation was “absolutely ridiculous.”

“No way, ever, is an employer responsible for an employee’s safety in the home,” Johnston said. “Ludicrous!”

Others saw OSHA in telecommuters’ homes as an Orwellian instrument of the government.

“This is another example of government’s attempt to become Big Brother,” said Tom Potts. “Every day, one hears of another intrusion into private lives. This is only the beginning.”

In another post, under the title “OSHA and telecommuting,” the writer says OSHA’s policy would be an intrusion. “This is another area where they can expand and interfere with people’s lives.”

Tracy Rutter said OSHA was “out of bounds” and that following its interpretation of its own policy would hobble telecommuting. “It will remove the incentives for this to work,” Rutter said.

Another writer under the post “OSHA in the Home” suggested that his wife, an occasional telecommuter, would be “pleased with my installing lighted ‘EXIT’ signs in our living room. They go so well with Mission-style furniture.”

Agreements between employer and telecommuter
In an e-mail message, Paul Morrison suggested that teleworkers and their employers need to establish an agreement or contract to determine who is responsible for the employee’s safety.

But Morrison also speculated on the possible reach of OSHA’s original interpretation: “What about traveling salespeople? Does the hotel they stay in have to be OSHA-certified?”
Should employers be bound by the same rules for telecommuters that they follow for their regular office workers? In the absence of any clear rules, what should employers agree to when dealing with telecommuters? Should employees be held solely responsible for their own welfare while telecommuting? To cast a vote on this issue, go to our home page and look for the poll in the right-hand navigation bar.To comment on this article, you can post a comment below or send us an e-mail .
Christina Conant, a telecommuter in Pleasanton, CA, contended that if company offices comply with OSHA standards and someone chooses to work at home “it is [the employee’s] problem to provide and set up…an alternative work location.”

Canadian Gary Norton predicted that requiring telecommuters to follow OSHA standards would invite litigation, not protect workers from hazards. He, like Conant, contended that telecommuters have to be responsible for their own safety.

“Is it a boss’s task to tell a subordinate to pick up their kid’s toys? Keep their stairs free of obstructions or clutter? Use safety procedures to cut something the employee is making for lunch,” Norton stated. “Hasn’t anybody ever heard of personal responsibility and being responsible for your own actions?”

An employer’s responsibilities
While most readers said they saw no room for government regulation, there was some agreement that businesses still need to protect their employees.

Ellen Freedman said that any tools provided by employers should meet certain standards. If, for example, an employer-provided tool burned the teleworker’s house to the ground, the employee would more than likely sue the employer. And if someone died in the fire, wouldn’t the employer be held responsible?

“Where there is liability, there is need and room for a minimum standard of care,” Freedman said.

Telecommuter Steve Fox contends employers should ensure that their teleworkers are using safe equipment and are properly trained. ”The businesses themselves have the potential for enormous benefit from telecommuting programs,” he said. “They need to bear some of the risk as well.”

OSHA’s limited role
Other readers agreed with some of the industry experts we quoted in the article who recommend that OSHA should issue guidelines for companies but not subject businesses to regulation.

One reader said the OSHA should provide guidelines to companies on avoiding carpal-tunnel syndrome and other workplace-related injuries. Businesses should then have to provide their telecommuters with a copy of the guidelines.

Another reader, who agreed with the idea of non-binding recommendations from OSHA, wrote that equipment provided by the company would have to meet certain standards for safety. Though equipment provided by the employee would be the employee’s responsibility, ”the employer would be responsible only for any incidents related to company-provided equipment.”
There’s no reason not to get exactly what you want from TechRepublic. By becoming a member of the CIORepublic’s Virtual Advisory Board, you can help guide our Web site by giving us your opinions on the topics and features you need as an elite member of the IT CIO community.Member responsibilities include:

  1. 1.      Advising TechRepublic on topics of interest
  2. 2.      Evaluating new features
  3. 3.      Building the community to answer the concerns that you have

We are currently accepting applications for a limited number of openings. Don’t wait any longer; apply now by sending us an e-mail. We’ll send you an application and more information.This is an opportunity to play a pivotal role in creating something that will help propel you in your IT career. Plus it’s another great thing to add to your resume!
We had a strong response to our Jan. 17 story “Are you responsible for your telecommuters’ safety?” From the numerous e-mails and postings we received, it’s obvious that this telecommuting issue hit close to home.

While most of you disagreed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s position that employers are responsible for their teleworkers’ safety, others saw merit to the idea that employers should help prevent workplace injuries.
It seems that most of our readers who responded to our article were on track. On Jan. 25, Charles Jeffress, assistant secretary for occupational safety and health for the U.S. Department of Labor, told Republican Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming that companies are not responsible for maintaining teleworkers’ safety at home. “OSHA will not hold employers liable for work activities in employees’ home offices,” Jeffress said. The message is expected to be delivered to both the House of Representatives and the Senate this week.
Before last week’s news, many of you told us you worried about how OSHA’s previous policy interpretation would affect telecommuters. Here’s a look at some of your responses to our first article:

“Absolutely ridiculous”
Several readers were adamant about their opposition to the proposed OSHA policy. Devon Johnston, for example, thought OSHA’s interpretation was “absolutely ridiculous.”

“No way, ever, is an employer responsible for an employee’s safety in the home,” Johnston said. “Ludicrous!”

Others saw OSHA in telecommuters’ homes as an Orwellian instrument of the government.

“This is another example of government’s attempt to become Big Brother,” said Tom Potts. “Every day, one hears of another intrusion into private lives. This is only the beginning.”

In another post, under the title “OSHA and telecommuting,” the writer says OSHA’s policy would be an intrusion. “This is another area where they can expand and interfere with people’s lives.”

Tracy Rutter said OSHA was “out of bounds” and that following its interpretation of its own policy would hobble telecommuting. “It will remove the incentives for this to work,” Rutter said.

Another writer under the post “OSHA in the Home” suggested that his wife, an occasional telecommuter, would be “pleased with my installing lighted ‘EXIT’ signs in our living room. They go so well with Mission-style furniture.”

Agreements between employer and telecommuter
In an e-mail message, Paul Morrison suggested that teleworkers and their employers need to establish an agreement or contract to determine who is responsible for the employee’s safety.

But Morrison also speculated on the possible reach of OSHA’s original interpretation: “What about traveling salespeople? Does the hotel they stay in have to be OSHA-certified?”
Should employers be bound by the same rules for telecommuters that they follow for their regular office workers? In the absence of any clear rules, what should employers agree to when dealing with telecommuters? Should employees be held solely responsible for their own welfare while telecommuting? To cast a vote on this issue, go to our home page and look for the poll in the right-hand navigation bar.To comment on this article, you can post a comment below or send us an e-mail .
Christina Conant, a telecommuter in Pleasanton, CA, contended that if company offices comply with OSHA standards and someone chooses to work at home “it is [the employee’s] problem to provide and set up…an alternative work location.”

Canadian Gary Norton predicted that requiring telecommuters to follow OSHA standards would invite litigation, not protect workers from hazards. He, like Conant, contended that telecommuters have to be responsible for their own safety.

“Is it a boss’s task to tell a subordinate to pick up their kid’s toys? Keep their stairs free of obstructions or clutter? Use safety procedures to cut something the employee is making for lunch,” Norton stated. “Hasn’t anybody ever heard of personal responsibility and being responsible for your own actions?”

An employer’s responsibilities
While most readers said they saw no room for government regulation, there was some agreement that businesses still need to protect their employees.

Ellen Freedman said that any tools provided by employers should meet certain standards. If, for example, an employer-provided tool burned the teleworker’s house to the ground, the employee would more than likely sue the employer. And if someone died in the fire, wouldn’t the employer be held responsible?

“Where there is liability, there is need and room for a minimum standard of care,” Freedman said.

Telecommuter Steve Fox contends employers should ensure that their teleworkers are using safe equipment and are properly trained. ”The businesses themselves have the potential for enormous benefit from telecommuting programs,” he said. “They need to bear some of the risk as well.”

OSHA’s limited role
Other readers agreed with some of the industry experts we quoted in the article who recommend that OSHA should issue guidelines for companies but not subject businesses to regulation.

One reader said the OSHA should provide guidelines to companies on avoiding carpal-tunnel syndrome and other workplace-related injuries. Businesses should then have to provide their telecommuters with a copy of the guidelines.

Another reader, who agreed with the idea of non-binding recommendations from OSHA, wrote that equipment provided by the company would have to meet certain standards for safety. Though equipment provided by the employee would be the employee’s responsibility, ”the employer would be responsible only for any incidents related to company-provided equipment.”
There’s no reason not to get exactly what you want from TechRepublic. By becoming a member of the CIORepublic’s Virtual Advisory Board, you can help guide our Web site by giving us your opinions on the topics and features you need as an elite member of the IT CIO community.Member responsibilities include:

  1. 1.      Advising TechRepublic on topics of interest
  2. 2.      Evaluating new features
  3. 3.      Building the community to answer the concerns that you have

We are currently accepting applications for a limited number of openings. Don’t wait any longer; apply now by sending us an e-mail. We’ll send you an application and more information.This is an opportunity to play a pivotal role in creating something that will help propel you in your IT career. Plus it’s another great thing to add to your resume!