Protect Your Business with Telework Safety Considerations
With winter on the horizon, everyone is hoping for a calm and mild season this year. Many of these wishful thinkers are employers and business owners. Last year, officials estimated the government lost around $100 million per day due the weather but, because of telework, the actual numbers were 30 percent less.
Most employees have readily available technologies at their homes such as personal computers, internet connection and smartphones. These tools help employees continue to work from their own homes and get away from the office environment.
Telework is an appealing approach for employees and employers. For example, if an employee cannot make it into the office due to bad weather, the employer knows that there will be available business continuity because the employee is teleworking. There are many other situations, other than weather emergencies, where teleworking is more beneficial than closing the office or making an employee take a vacation day.
Examples of Telework Benefits:
- Reduced employee costs – National Safety Council estimates that the average teleworking employee saves around $8,000 per year on gas, tolls, vehicle wear and tear, and parking costs.
- Reduced employer costs – According to the experts at the National Safety Council, an organization that takes a full-time office employee and converts them into a full time teleworker will save an average of $20,000 per employee per year. This savings is possible by reducing the costs of large expenses such as real estate and utilities, as well as smaller items such as water and toilet paper.
- Access to a larger, younger workforce – Employers can have employees working for their organization from around the world. This means access to a larger pool of people with desired skills and salary rates. An added benefit of Telework is that on college campuses telework jobs are so common, students graduating have grown into working remotely and want a job that lets them continue. Some jobs, like online networking, may even demand it.
- Creating opportunities for disabled workers – Eliminating transportation issues would allow physically disabled people who are unemployed to get a job at home. This would reduce the unemployment rate immensely.
- Worker safety – In 2013, The National Safety Council estimated that there were 35,200 traffic fatalities and about 3.8 million traffic injuries necessitating medical attention. By far, driving to and from work is the most dangerous thing employees do all day, no matter the industry. Add bad weather to the daily commute and the dangers become even more obvious.
Teleworkers don’t have to worry about their safety during their commute but they and their employers should be aware of some safety concerns.
Safety concerns for Teleworkers
Safety is a big concern in the average work place but how can employers protect employees they can’t see?
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspects work environments for safety and health risks. They hold employers legally responsible for dangers produced by equipment and materials or for the way the employer has the work processed. Because OSHA does not conduct inspections for home offices, nor does the agency require employers to do so, employers that are legally required to maintain records of work-related injuries and illnesses have a difficult time reporting these for teleworkers.
Fortunately, teleworkers are primarily occupied with office work and their safety concerns are basic office hazards: ergonomics problems; fires; slips, trips and falls; and air quality. Unfortunately, because teleworkers share their home and office, they might become permissive about fixing these dangers.
- Ergonomics hazards – Data collected from 2003 to 2006 by the Telework Learning Center in Fairfax, VA on the safety and health of teleworkers discovered ergonomics as the main helath concern. 38 percent of the teleworkers in the study described pain, soreness, and work-related discomfort in the back, wrists, neck and shoulders. Also, the data suggests that the more an employee teleworked, the more likely they were going to experience this hazards.
- Fires – From the same study by the Telework Learning Center in Fairfax, VA , over 50 percent of the teleworkers studied did not have a home emergency or evacuation plan. Between 2003 and 2006 around 690 home fires were related to office equipment, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Now those pesky fire drills don’t seem so silly.
- Slips, trips and falls – Because a teleworkers office is also their home, the risk of slipping, tripping or falling increases due do the addition of toys, pets, or untidiness. This is in addition to the dangers of slipping, tripping or falling on office items like boxes or cords.
- Air quality – For some reason, many teleworkers have their home offices in their basements. Basements are susceptible to radon plus it’s where chemicals and cleaning supplies are often are kept. Breathing basement air that has not been tested or cleaned is not dangerous for doing laundry but it is dangerous for working in full time.
Boomtown IG is a virtual internet marketing and web development agency. We are going to ask all our employees to take this survey and we will share the results in a future blog post with you all. Perhaps making our employees aware of the dangers in their home work places will inspire our readers to do the same thing for their employees.
Have your telework employees take our safety checklist!
Telework office safety checklist
- Does the office have asbestos-containing materials? Here is a list of asbestos-containing materials.
- If YES to question 1, is the asbestos-containing material in decent or undamaged condition?
- Are there any indoor air quality issues in the office?
- Does the office have acceptable ventilation?
- Is the office noisy? Are the noises above 85 decibels? (louder than traffic but quieter than a hair dryer)
- Does the office have a supply of drinkable water?
- Does the office have an available bathroom? Does the bathroom have hot and cold running water?
- Are there handrails on all the stairs with 4 + steps?
- In the office electrical panel are all of the fuses and circuit breakers labeled?
- Is it clear that the circuit breakers are in the OPEN or CLOSED position?
- Is the office electrical equipment clear of easily identifiable dangers that could cause injuries like frayed wires, bare conductors, loose wires, flexible wires running through the walls, exposed wires fixed to the ceiling?
- Is the homes electrical system enough for the use of the office electrical equipment?
- Are movement and visibility easily accessible in the office?
- Are all of the office corners, aisles, and doorways clear of any obstructions including filing cabinet drawers and storage closets doors?
- Are the office chairs ergonomic with armrests and an adjustable back?
- Are the office chairs sturdy and have no loose wheels, legs, or rungs?
- Does the office have too much furniture making it difficult to maneuver?
- Are all of the office phone lines, electrical and extension cords contained along a baseboard or under a desk?
- Are the office floors and carpets level? Dry? Clean? Clear of frayed seams?
- Is there an unnecessary quantity of combustibles in the office?
- Is the computer keyboard adjustable?