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Company liability for injuries among remote workers

Since 2005, working remotely has increased by 173%. This trend towards remote working presents many opportunities as well as challenges for both employees and employers. 

Firstly, businesses will have to adapt safety procedures to facilitate the increased flexibility of home working. It is far more challenging for supervisors to oversee the safety of homes than managing a space where the entire workforce is present. Furthermore, employers must consider how workers’ compensation insurance works in these circumstances.  

Thus, it is crucial to understand the rights and obligations of both employees and employers with regard to working from home. 

What kinds of injuries are common among remote workers?

As the home environment is unlikely to have the rigorous safety standards of a workplace, employees could face a greater risk of injury. Trip hazards are a common factor, for example, from things like spilled water on the floor or children’s toys left on the stairway. 

Additionally, individuals are less likely to have a fully ergonomic workstation in their home setting. As a result, it is possible that “cumulative injuries” may occur more frequently at home. Cumulative injuries refer to physical harm caused by repetitive movement and overuse. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and back pain.  

 Does workers’ compensation cover injuries sustained at home?

New York workers’ compensation applies to injuries and illnesses that occur during the course of employment. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that this could stretch to injuries sustained while working from home as long as the injury was work-related. The “home office” exception has generally only been carefully applied, with the employee having the heavier burden to prove that their injury was truly incurred during the course of employment, but that may be shifting as some employers mandate remote work.

Employers are not permitted to simply control a worker’s home environment. However, there are still things that an employer can do to ensure the safety of staff. One example would be to provide an itemized checklist with methods of reducing risks while working from home. 

If your company is moving employees to remote work or you’re thinking about permitting remote work upon request, it’s important to consider the risks and potential risk management. You don’t want unnecessary and invalid workers’ compensation claims to be a drain on your resources.

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