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Remote Workers & Workplace Safety: Know Your Responsibilities

Woman gestures during virtual meeting with colleagues

More employees have been working remotely in the last few years and this can raise questions about an employer’s responsibilities with respect to workplace safety for these remote workers. Here are a few key points about these responsibilities.

The law

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires covered employers to maintain a workplace that is free from recognized hazards. The law, which is enforced by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), applies to work performed by an employee in any workplace within the United States, including a remote workplace. 


Employers who are required, because of their size or industry classification, to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses, are also responsible for keeping such records for remote workers.

Under OSHA regulations, injuries and illnesses that occur while an employee is working from home will be considered work-related if the injury or illness occurs while the employee is performing work for compensation in their home, and the injury or illness is directly related to the performance of work rather than to the general home environment or setting.

 Here are two examples:

  • If an employee drops a box of work documents and injures their foot, the case is considered work-related.
  • If an employee is injured because they trip on the family dog while rushing to answer a work phone call, the case isn’t considered work-related.

If you have questions about whether a particular case is work-related for the purposes of the OSH Act, you may want to consult legal counsel.


When it comes to inspections, OSHA has separate policies for home-based worksites and home offices. The agency defines a home-based worksite as the area of an employee's personal residence where the employee performs non-office work for the employer (e.g., product assembly and light manufacturing). A home office is where office-work activities are performed in a home-based worksite (e.g., filing, keyboarding, computer research, reading, writing).

Home offices

OSHA’s policy for home offices is that:

  • OSHA won’t conduct inspections of employees' home offices.
  • OSHA won’t hold employers responsible for employees' home offices and doesn’t expect employers to inspect the home offices of their employees.

If OSHA receives a complaint about a home office, the complainant will be advised of OSHA's policy. If an employee makes a specific request, OSHA may informally let employers know of complaints about home-office conditions but won’t follow-up with the employer or employee.

Other home-based worksites

OSHA’s policy for other home-based worksites is that:

  • OSHA will only conduct inspections of other home-based worksites, such as home-based manufacturing operations, when OSHA 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.
  • The scope of the inspection in an employee's home will be limited to the employee's work activities. The OSH Act does not apply to an employee's house or furnishings.
  • Employers are responsible for hazards caused by materials, equipment, or work processes which the employer provides or requires to be used in an employee's home.

Note:  Employers in certain states may be subject to the regulations and policies of an OSHA-approved state program. These programs may offer greater protections to remote workers than federal OSHA does.


If you have remote workers, make sure you:

  • Comply with applicable regulations/standards issued under the OSH Act or OSHA-approved state program; and
  • Understand the policies adopted by enforcement agencies for remote workers.




Workplace Safety: Key Responsibilities for Small Businesses

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires covered employers to maintain a workplace that is free from recognized hazards. The following are several key areas to know, and the employer responsibilities regarding workplace safety.

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