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United States

OSHA Reverses Home Worker Advisory 121

Masloki sent it: an article on prodigy-news that says "Facing a barrage of criticism, Labor Secretary Alexis Herman today withdrew a federal interpretation letter saying that companies' normal workplace safety obligations also apply to employees who do their work at home." That's one OSHA regulatory attempt that certainly didn't last very long; we only got the word about the proposed regulation yesterday.
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OSHA Reverses Home Worker Advisory

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  • by whoop ( 194 )
    I'd be willing to pull up a lawn chair and set a barrel on fire in my front lawn in the name of solidarity for my Linux brothers, and pay dues so the union head haunchos can go to Hawaii and have conferences for three hours a day on how to resolve it.
  • Posted by patg:

    sounds like "foot in mouth" situation. "uh, we really didn't think about what we said..."
  • Do you think that you should get rid of the sexual harassment laws? They cost companies money!

    Of course not.

    There should be some protection for employees. I'm not saying that they should rebuild the house. But they should maybe send out someone to check the ergonomics (maybe the same person who checks it in the office?).

    The day my employer says "Ok, we need to come out and check your home-office.", is the day I find a new employer. Not that this would actually have happened, what they would have really said would be "Ok, all telecommuting privileges are hereby revoked, and all employees are required to be onsite."

    Hal Duston

  • I'm SURE this is not going to be OSHA's last word on the subject.

    My personal take on it is that if the employer provides you with a perfectly acceptable place to work at their workplace, and does not explicitly nor implicitly encourage working from home, but merely PERMITS it under certain circumstances, then they should not be liable for much.

    On the other hand, if there is any kind of requirement or pressure for you to work at home, then they SHOULD be liable. Telecommuting shouldn't be an out for companies who don't want to pay for safe working environments.

    As many people pointed out, the true lawsuit looming is not by home-based telecommuters, but workers who spend all their time on the road. Working in cramped spaces on planes, on miniscule hotel desks, in any corner that can be found at client sites, on some crappy laptop computer that is seriously un-ergonomic.
  • Anonymous Coward wrote: Here is an IDEA: The local area networks of governments (city, county, state, national) should be publicly readable networks. NO reason not to and every reason to make it open to the public.

    Oh yeah, that's just what I want - all government records, including:

    • Social security numbers
    • Driver's license numbers
    • Tax returns
    • Health records (especially in Canada)
    • Criminal records
    In theory, it's a nice idea - the data that the government has on me should be my property, and I should be able to see what they know about me. However, the problem lies in making sure that I'm the only one who can access that information...

    ...and I'm not even going to mention the risk to data integrity... oops, guess I just did.
    ________________________

  • Can you copy these freely? How can the authors get compesated if you use their stuff but don't pay them? Well... it's already happening. It would happen for movies too.

    Um, the authors of free software generally aren't compensated, except with "fame" for a few. Most authors of free software have "day jobs" where they write proprietary software, or do something else (tech support, etc.).
  • Please explain how creators of information (computer software, books, music, movies, etc.) would be compensated for their work in a world where IP did not exist.

    Without IP, copying would become the norm, rather than the exception. A very small percentage of users would pay for the information. The price of the information would increase, and the salaries of the creators would decrease. Creators would become fewer due to the lower salaries (there are many in it for the money, though I'm not one of them). Paying customers would also decrease, since the price of the software would go through the stratosphere.

    That is, unless you can think of some other way for the creators to be compensated. I have yet to hear a suitable alternative. Hint: all four business models on ESR's Business Case for Open Source page are bogus (except for widget frosting, which really only applies to hardware vendors). [opensource.org]

    Hmm, I wonder whether this'll get "Flamebait", "Troll", or "Offtopic"?
  • Nonsense. Being able to legally duplicate videotapes and DVDs doesn't necessarily mean that you can see movies for free. It's hilarious that you choose James Dean as an example, considering that during his life, not a single one of his movies was released on consumer media - VCRs and DVD players weren't around back then.

    And that's what would happen if you were allowed to legally copy DVD's and video tapes. Movies would simply not be released in that format. If you wanted to watch a movie at home, you'd have to get a tape someone made by smuggling a camcorder into a theatre, or wait for it to maybe show on TV. Cable would probably cost more, advertizing would increase drastically, etc. If you remove the income gained through IP, media companies will find someway to squeeze profit out of you, and most of them will be a lot more unpleasant than the current situation.
  • something HAS to be done when 20 Million people work this way, and yes, it needs to be regulated.

    Just because lots of people work from home does NOT mean it has to be regulated. OSHA has its value, and its place, but the home is not that place. Government is there to protect people from each other, not to protect people from themselves. If someone wants to have an ergonomically incorrect home, such is their right. This isn't the same situation as, say, an office building, where the location/equipment is provided by the employer and you have to work there. If the employee choses their home over an ergonomically safe workplace, then that is their choice and the government has no business causing trouble. I think OSHA realized they'd just be creating a mess, rather than actually helping workers, and so decided not to go with the proposal.

    If OSHA were to do what they had proposed, it would have been bad for both employees and employers. Employees would have to have their homes invaded to make sure everything was ergonomically correct, etc. Employers would have to do these checks to prevent frivolous litigation, and nobody would be any better off.

    I wonder where all the pressure came from. Citizens? Or the business lobby? Given the fact that the two politicians that were quoted were Republicans, it must have been mostly from the business side. If you doubt corporate power, getting this blown away in one day should make you think otherwise.

    The pressure probably came from both. I know if I were telecommuting (which is a distinct possibility once I graduate from college) I wouldn't want to have to deal with all sorts of regulatory crap just so I could work in my own home. I'm sure businesses didn't like the idea either.

    And on a tangential note, the fact that the politicians were Republicans does not mean that the pressure was from business. Many Republicans would oppose it simply as part of their opposition to excessive government regulation.

    Oh, and just FYI it wasn't blown away in one day. It's been several weeks since the proposal was put out.

  • One of the points of working where you live is that you get to make your own environment. OSHA making that decision basically forces companies to either invade your home to shield them from litigation or not allow telecommuting.

    Yes, but basically this reversal means that the company has no limits on what they can do. They can stick you with equipment they could never allow you to use in the workplace.

    There is a balance here as far as where the fiscal responsibilities lie for work-at-home employees. In my experience, full-time (or mostly full-time) people who work at home have gotten PC's from their employer, or the employer has opted to buy them laptops so they can use them at home and in the office. I've never heard of the company spinging for furniture.

    I think what's needed here is a happy medium. Anything that the employer povides to the employee should meet OSHA standards. That means if the employer gives you a PC, the PC must meet whatever OSHA standards there might be for ergonomics (which, I think, is not much). If the employer simply pays for you to buy a PC, they must supply you with enough money to buy a PC that meets OSHA standards. If you, on your own, decide to buy a bed of nails with lousy neck support to use as chair while using said PC, that's your business. If the employer gives you crummy machinery that explodes, killing your cat, they should be held liable.

    While I think the work-at-home movement is good, I do tend to worry about a resurgence of the "piecework" problems that we had in the late 19th century. People (mostly women) were expected to do ungodly amounts of work, out of their own home, under poor conditions with few resources. While, in this economic boom and labor shortage we probably won't see much of that, I can see a future where, if you want to work, you'll have to supply your own equipment and your own space to do your job.

  • I think there's a need for Government funding in helping telecommuters and freelancers get support in acquiring a safe work environment at home. Why can't you pay for this yourself? Are you really that helpless/stupid that you can't take responsibility for your own health? Do you really need the government to be your personal babysitter? I don't think this is an issue the government should be involved with at all. Telecommuters are big boys and girls, and they should take responsibility for their own ergonomics. Maybe it's too much to ask for damages with carpal syndrome, severe caffeine addiction, monitor radiation tan and severe loss of hair, but hey. How exactly is any of this the fault of anyone other than yourself? You chose to work the hours you did, and if you were concerned about the above, you should have worked fewer hours or changed jobs. Unless you had an explicit agreement with your employer that you would be compensated for the above, I don't see any reason for you to receive damages.
  • I just read the print version of the WSJ earlier today, and their take on it was that Democratic party politics and favors owed to labor unions had a big factor in the issuing of the ruling.

    How in the world can unions organize at-home workers (where would they go if they were on strike? to the office?). I have to run right this instant, but can someone find and put up a link to the WSJ story/editoral? I think it adds some insight into the political code being executed here.
  • I think that safety at home, if just as important as safety at work. If someone injures them self at home, while doing work for their employer, then the employer should be held responsible... same as if he/she were at work. I think that the biggest issue is what changes should be made. Work place should be safe for many people, while the home is a more comfortable environment. I don't think that every rule that applies to working in the office should apply to working at home, but a company should be responsible for all of its employees.

    I need to do my laundry
    Please send $3 to:
    Jon Allen
    p.o. box 308142
  • I'm not asking for government to come to my house and eat dinner with me... I'm asking that my longterm work related pains be taken care of. It doesnt have to cover everything... and it shouldnt, but certian issues should be covered. The government should lay down a basis that all employers should obey. I cant say that I think employers should be held liable for me falling down the stairs, but I shouldnt be left out in the cold just because I work from home.

    I need to do my laundry
    Please send $3 to:
    Jon Allen
    p.o. box 308142
  • Facing a barrage of criticism, Slashdot user spam368 today withdrew a claim stating that he achieved first post.
  • Holy crap, they actually may have realized that this would effectively end telecommuting. Wow.
  • The problem is that it wouldn't be OSHA coming into people's homes to inspect, rather, it would be the companies that still allowed telecommuting... "Hey! You can't keep porn on your home PC - you might spill something on the keyboard!"
  • Where do you live?

    1444 West Garvey Ave
    West Covina, California

    If you have an alarm system, how do I disable it?

    No alarm, the front door is almost always unlocked.

    Where in your home is your computer?

    Go into the front door. Walk through the foyer into the hallway to the right. There is one computer in the office on your immediate left. In the room at the end of the hall there is another computer and a few grand worth of scanner equipment.

    When will you be away from home?

    I do not plan on being around for at least a couple of weeks starting today. There might be some people in and out, but I am going out of town.

    See, that is not too hard now is it? Please note that I do NOT give you permission to take anything. HTH HAND!

    -BW

  • The Slashdot crowd enjoyed making fun of this when it was first posted here, but like it or not, there are some real concerns that need to be answered.

    Telecommuting is expected to continue rising in popularity. Employers could find themselves obliged to offer telecommuting benefits in order to attract good people (if this is not already happening). If it becomes widespread enough, they will surely seek ways to reduce or minimize costs.

    For employers not to be held liable for preventable home-office injuries would be nothing less than a cash cow for corporations. It is not hard to imagine Fortune 1000 companies offering generous telecommuting plans in order to encourage employees to work at home, and thereby excusing themselves from any responsibility for their safety. Then, if you wind up with an RSI due to poor working conditions at home, the company takes no blame despite having pushed you into that situation.

    It is exactly this sort of Catch-22 for employees that only regulation can prevent. While this is not an issue today, it may well be a problem soon. It is entirely appropriate for OSHA to consider the liabilities associated with telecommuting.
  • The Mercury News did an excellent series [mercurycenter.com] on how Silicon Valley farms out assembly work to Asian immigrants and their families.
  • Surely you're not saying that just because the senators are republicans, that they have no care for individual welfare and only care about the companies. Oh wait a second, that's exactly what you're saying:

    "I wonder where all the pressure came from. Citizens? Or the business lobby? Given the fact that the two politicians that were quoted were Republicans, it must have been mostly from the business side."

    Well, as a freestanding individualist, I find your stereotypes as annoying as your ignorance. And I also do not believe ANYONE should expect the companies they work for to at any time care about in what conditions you live or work at home. If we open that door, we'll find that some companies actually WANT to pick out their employees furniture! And a couple other things too.

    This OHSA paper from November 15th, 1999, seems illogical and also indicative of the growing unnecessary government influence in our lives. I'm glad we live in a time and place where it could be reversed quickly.

    -Ben
  • Let's say you step on Junior's rollerskate while walking from your desk to the bathroom, you fall and break something. Are you saying that the cleanliness and safety of YOUR home is your employer's responsibility?

    Not only do I think it's my responsibility to keep that area safe, I don't want to have the company coming in and inspecting my apartment on a regular basis to ensure everything's kosher. So I leave things lying around sometimes - should I get penalized by my employer for how I keep my home? Will the safety of my kitchen, or lack thereof, be called into question because I work from home? And so on. And require me to pay for anything that needs to get fixed, replaced, adjusted, etc. since it's my home? Let's take it even farther. If I work from home, can the company dictate that I can only do it with "company standard" hardware & software, anf I have to buy the hardware out of my own pocket?

  • I was amazed at how one of my local news stations (ABC) ran this very same story right after I finished reading it on /.

    Seeing as how the original article referenced an MSNBC article about the OSHA letter, I'm still not sure wether ABC picked the story up from MSNBC or /. ;)

    In any event its nice to know that some 'News for Nerds' actually gets reported in mainstream media also... and that /. can actually be more timely than traditional media. :)
  • From what I understand, some company in Texas asked OSHA what their obligations were in this area, and OSHA resoponded. They did not, AFAIK go poking thier nose into this unasked. Someone asked them, they responded, and the whole thing got blown out of proportion.
  • It seems to me that there have been a lot of annoucements made recently that were quickly retracted after criticism. It seems to me we could save a lot of hassle if legislators/business ASKED the people what they want, and what they think, before they act. Maybe that is too much to ask from unelected officals.
    J
  • From the article:
    "Such federal agency "interpretation" letters to individual companies often are made public, and other businesses look to them for general guidance."

    Yes, OSHA was asked for their opinion on the matter. But, as the above indicates, the responses to such question are considered pseudo-policy. Since no business wants to piss off OSHA, pseudo-policy is pretty much as good as the real thing.

  • Hey, how did this get bumped up to a 2?
  • I still haven't seen the letter, but it sounded like an unreasonably vague statement of the responsibilities of an employer who had employees that telecommuted full- or part-time. The specific examples they cited - CTS, unsafe stairs, electrical fires - as violations of OSHA regs by the employer are what really fanned the fires.
  • "Have you got a home office? OSHA it!"
  • I think that /. would probably be the best place to look for opinions on this kind of matter. Where do you think the highest concentration of telecommuters are? Probably in the computer industry, because it seems to make use of technology wayyy before any other industry - it's in our nature to telecommute. Even those who work at companies usually communicate primarily through electronic means, because it's natural to us, espescially those of us who grew up on the 'net. I don't know if the media uses /., but with the increasing number of technical issues in the news, they probably should, because we have a unique outlook.
  • 1) Telecommuting is a giant ergonomic plus in and of itself. The workers will automatically adjust their home environment to their liking for when they are working (and even when they're not).

    This doesn't really make sense - as comfortable as I may be at home, comfort doesn't keep the carpel tunnel away, and in fact my perception of comfort today (which might be sitting in an ez-chair with a notebook or something) could be very bad for me. It isn't unreasonable to ask a company who pays for a computer, a monitor, keyboard, etc.. to at least *help* pay for a chair, and maybe a desk - if you work primarily (or ONLY) from home, then it's cheaper than doing the same at the office. My employer doesn't do this, and I didn't ask them to - but it would have been nice. Also, rather than outfitting you with an entire home office, they could give you a small budget to help create your home office, since the quality of your home office will be reflected in your work. If you are uncomfortable or inconvenienced because you could only afford cheap office furniture, you probably won't work as much as if your home office is a place you like to be. I don't think I would want them completely furnishing my home office, because If/when I move to another job, I would have to give back (or pay for) all of the furniture they gave me.

    Sure - Telecommuting is a priveledge, it's great, I love it and I'm sure that everyone else who has the priveledge loves it, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be some care taken to ensure that employees are safe from hazards that will keep us from working.

    I've seen the argument that in moving from the home office to the kitchen for lunch, you may trip and fall and could sue the company - this is absurd, that's like saying that if you get in an accident driving from the office to Pizza Hut you could sue the company, you've left the realm of your job. If there is a hazard in your home, it's your fault - but if you're working from home, it's reasonable (if the employer is providing you with equipment) for them to provide you with healthy equipment. Simply publishing information and letting us make our own decisions isn't the best thing - Office furniture is expensive, I think that the chairs used in our offices list at over $600 - that's more than any single thing I own is worth, with the exceptions of my car and my computer. I could buy a couch for that, or a recliner, or a big screen TV - Most people wouldn't go to that expenditure on their own, and wouldn't be able to get the kind of deals on used office furniture that a company could (It's easy to buy 20 or 30 used chairs at a discount, but who wants to deal with one person? It wouldn't be unreasonable for companies to buy extra furniture for telecommuters and allow them the option of buying it for their home office, rather than paying retail).

    Anyway, I could rant and rant ;p I just don't think it's completely unreasonable for OSHA to have policies on the home office of a Full-Time employee (contract workers are, of course, on their own). I fall somewhere inbetween, and I can't complain (nor do I).

  • Next thing you know, my employer will be calling my cubicle "home" and they'll take away my ergonomic chair and keyboard.

    My company was the same one that took the full time $7/hr cleaning crew and turned it into a $7/hr part time cleaning crew so the company could could get out of paying for benefits.

    Don't think it can't happen to you.
  • doh nevermind =P
  • The unregulated approach works for expensive skilled people like us. We can afford decent equipment and furnishings. And we tend not to work with things that are hard to make reasonably safe. Yeah, a computer with an open case can be a shock hazard, but that's our own problem.

    But it doesn't work for the less expensively skilled people or those who work with things that are difficult to make safe. Ten hours a day of data entry on the kind of screen, keyboard, and mouse that you can afford on min. wage can cause you some rather serious problems. Without some rules, it's too cheap and easy to replace the wortkers. And I just bet it's both more convenient for the janitor, and way, way cheaper for the employer, if the janitor takes the elevator parts and cleaning fluids home and cleans the parts in his sink, rather than using the OSHA approved stuff, including toxic waste disposal services, at the job site.

    Neither idea works. Non-regulation of work done at home is too easy to abuse, and applying current OSHA workplace regs to a home environment is, for the reasons so many have mentioned, intolerable. I don't have any other ideas ar this point, either.


    try to relax...
  • You're saying I have to pay for the $200 ergonomic keyboard and $1800 ergonomic chair with comfy armrests and foot massager all by myself now? Awww!

    Well, I'll give up on the ergonomic mouse and ergonomic on/off switch...

    More seriously:

    As someone who does a lot of freelance writing, I think it's a bit sad that regulations are still trailing behind on the subject of ergonomics for the telecommuter and/or freelancer. I don't think it should necessarely be up to the companies to pay for all the ergonomic stuff people may or may not need, but I think there's a need for Government funding in helping telecommuters and freelancers get support in acquiring a safe work environment at home.

    Maybe it's too much to ask for damages with carpal syndrome, severe caffeine addiction, monitor radiation tan and severe loss of hair, but hey. I understand this legislation was shot down, but I hope a more sensible one pops up.

  • OSHA almost shut down the growing telecommuting trend. I plan to take advantage of that in the near future and I do not want OSHA denying me that opportunity.
  • Great, typical misunderstandings made by hysterical people and now we have a new problem on our hands.

    OSHA never said that employers were going to be held responsible for workers safety in the home. What OSHA did was respond to a request for guidance and in return sent "interpretation letters" explaining the current policy relating to home workers. They never expected those letters to be regarded as policy measures.

    Now, however, since the subject has been broached, everyone from CEO's to Milly the maid are going to be calling their lawyers to see what they can get out of this, and that's going to bring the Feds right back into it.

    This is what I want. Uncle Sam standing in my bedroom, with the Board of Directors dictating how I should decorate my living room, and OSHA forced into my kitchen.

    Sometimes it's best if people just keep their traps shut! Nobody cared until some shmoe decided he/she was too afraid to make a decision on their own. Now we get to hear from all the left wing radicals how businesses are mistreating their employees in the bedrooms. Just wait and see. You won't be able to work from your house without hiring a half dozen lawyers and signing away your social security benifits a few years from now. Good grief!

    On top of all this, Ms. Herman wants a national dialog! Why don't we just rip out our brains, tie them up in pretty bows and send them special deliverly the the White House now, and get it over with! Once a bunch of week knee'd polititions get their hands on this we're doomed! What better slogan could you ask for? "I'm for protecting the worker. . ..!" That's what they'll say! But don't you believe it!




  • The alternative is to open your home to warantless OSHA inspections. Are you ready for that? Since you dislike employers so much, are you willing to let the employers dictate how your house must be laid out and equipped before you can work for them? Is your house adequately equipped with fire exits? Do you have MSDS sheets for that bottle of who-knows-what under the kitchen sink?

    There is no provision in the OSH Act for half-way regulation of the home. Its either a workplace or its not.

    Just to make it more interesting, your facts are entirely wrong. Under essentially all of the health plans I've dealt with (far too many) the relevant exclusion is drafted to be seamless with workers compensation. That is, it is either "injury in the course and scope of employment" or covered under a normal health plan. There is essentially nothing that falls through the cracks as being neither (the reasons for this would take more time than I've got. Ask me if you want to know.)

    My guess is that you might have gotten disinformation from someone who has a reason to oppose people working from their homes. Why, I don't know. Some people simply find that kind of individual freedom disturbing. Others are union organizers or whatever.

    No convenience like this comes totally free, but I'll take it over the hazards of commuting (also not OSHA-covered!) any day.

    --Toby White
  • Interesting. Is manditory telecommuting something that happens often? I'm not in the common business world, and admit an ignorance as to companies' telecommuting policies.
  • Who?

    James Dean. You know, the sausage guy!

    mmmm....sausage....
  • I just finished creating a whole new obstacle course and slew of hazards for my home office.
    Need to use the bathroom? Gotta pass the shattered glass and pine tar pathway!
    Phone's ringing? Watch out for the medicine balls and hot coals!

    Seriously, I really don't want my employer telling me to clean my room, my girlfriend does that enough.

  • "supply decent light bulbs for quality lighting"? You want my employer to choose and buy my light bulbs? Because make no mistake, if my employer can be held libel for damages caused by crummy lights, then they'll be deciding what kind of lights I can have. I sort of enjoy freedom. I don't want a company lawyer poking into my house saying "We'll choose your furniture and your lights, and we'll eliminate anything dangerous in your house that isn't needed for work. Ditch the skateboard, you might trip on it. Shoot the dog, he might bite you. Abandon the wife and kids, you might catch their cold. You will be assimilated."
  • No, no no no no!

    Companies cannot go back to the 19th century. The first one that tried it would be sued into oblivion.

    Work the puzzle. If company X decided to make 1000 little sweatshops, where would they find 1000 employees to staff 'em?

    The economy is too damn good for anyone to be willing to work in an uncomfortable (read ergonomic) environment.

    Now, if the Y2K bug had taken out Wall Street, you'd have a case...

    Meow
  • > As someone who does a lot of freelance writing,

    Well, if you're a freelancer, you're not an employee so it wouldn't have applied to you anyway.
  • I agree that some sort of middle ground between "no regulation" and "just like you were in the office" is needed here. I think one way of generalizing it might be to say that the company is responsible for any equipment they provide for your use at home, but the home work environment itself, and any equipment not provided by your employer, is your problem. This way, the company isn't responsible for the collapse of your basement staircase, or for the ergonomic properties of equipment you bought on your own, but they are responsible if you use, even at home, an ergonomically-poor computer keyboard that they supplied to you. I can still see some grey areas in this scheme, and the details (where the devil is) would have to be worked out, but I think it's the right way to go.

    But should your employer be required to provide you with certain items (work chair, desk, computer)? If not, then I can imagine that having a really good home office setup might make you a more desirable job candidate. ("Jim and John both look like really good engineers, but John's less likely to have RSI trouble due to his ergonomic keyboard... Jim's Internet connection sucks and his machines are old and slow, whereas John has a really up-to-date setup, very professional... Let's hire John.") I can see how, over time, this might lead to equipment costs being borne by employees rather than employers. Telecommuters would, in that way, start to look more like external contractors than real employees.

    And here's one more issue: If you are responsible for the condition of your home work environment, should OSHA have authority over you? I would argue that they shouldn't, since this is your home, not a corporate environment that your employer requires you to work in, over which you have no control. (Then again, if your job requires you to telecommute, is your employer essentially forcing you to work in an unregulated and therefore potentially unsafe environment? I sense a slippery slope here...)


  • Dude, I see in my mind's eye, your name becoming a grunge rock band in the future :-) Seriously. When's the IPO??

  • I disagree. The damages were sought because of the total lack of free Vaseline which was deemed necessary by OSHA to prevent -

    er

    are kids under 18 reading this site?
  • I don't think it should necessarely be up to the companies to pay for all the ergonomic stuff people may or may not need, but I think there's a need for Government funding in helping telecommuters and freelancers get support in acquiring a safe work environment at home.

    So let me get this straight.... You don't think your employer should be on the hook to buy all your ergonomic stuff... But the government should reach in to every taxpayer's pocket, swipe some more cash, and use it to help you set up shop at home.

    Ummm.... No!

    Why is there always someone that thinks the government should provide them every nit-picking $THING, or $SERVICE.... Sheesh! You want to work at home, as a "freelancer", that's your problem, not mine. I shouldn't be asked to pay for it. If you're smart, you'll figure out how to do so safely through your own research on the subject. You might start by looking at how employers protect their employee's at work and go from there. But we certainly don't need more government bureaucracy and spending.

    Temkin

  • Since you telecommute from home your home is an extension of the office. The Firm needs a way to monitor your activity, just like the home office, so please install cameras in your living room, bathroom, and bedroom so The Firm can monitor your productivity and can be sure it complies with OSHA. The Firm is considering sending a direct video feed of your home office to OSHA to guarantee compliance. Privacy abuse, who us? The Firm, the government (OSHA is good, we really only care about you and are doing this in your best interest, whether you like it or not), oh just trust us, we know what's in your best interest. Think about what you wish for.
  • So why not just to set all information free.

    Great idea. So let's not complain the next time id grabs video card information, Real grabs music preference information, sites track users navigation, and some comany you do business with sells your personal information to some other company. One word...Privacy...it's simply one's right to keep their information their information.
  • How do you differentiate between actions at home? Anyone that has worked at home knows that you mix and match tasks between work and house duties. Most people don't sit at an home office desk for 8 hours then decide its time to do home stuff.

    When you get up to make lunch in your kitchen, but either fall in the process or cut yourself while making it, would that be covered? If I was at work, I'd be getting up to go to lunch too, wouldn't I? Or something catches on fire from your cigarette? Is that covered even if you can't smoke at the office?

    We could go through countless situations where it just doesn't make sense to apply these rules. I understand you don't think every rule should apply at home, but where do you stop? We have a country full of lawyers that could find reasons why each situation should be covered if this rule is kept in place.

    Working at home is a privilege and I don't know any place where its a requirement. As such, these safety rules shouldn't apply.

    BTW, does anyone know if there's anything on the books about safety if operating your private vehicle to run some errands for work? Its very similar to what we're talking about here.

  • If the media did cull their understanding of this issue from /. it's pretty unfortunate. The majority of posters here have dealt with telecommuting exclusivly as an optional luxury and have ignored the circumstance of those who do "piece work" or required telecommuting. And not to stereotype, but there is a serious libertarian bent to /. And OSHA taking its cues from libertarians is kinda like the surgeon general being lead by Christian Scientists. (appologies to xtian sci's in the audience.)

    Myself, I have a good amount of respect for OSHA. It probably helps that one of my friends almost died because her former employer was in flagrant violation of OSHA rules. And all of the real examples I've seen, (as opposed to wild exageration and supposition) have pointed towards a real need for some light to be shed on the issue of employers avoiding responsibility in work from home plans.

    Here's to OSHA continuing its job of protecting worker saftey and health from corner cutting employers.

  • Ooops, forgot to turn off HTML formatting.
  • Anyone else think they might have been browsing /.? Kinda like when everyone (sadly, even me) was bashing the proposed casting for Enders Game, Orson Scott Card made himself a little account and posted some replies to us. See, we do discuss "stuff that matters"...
    =======
    There was never a genius without a tincture of madness.
  • Yeah, but only when his employer agreed to pay for his liposuction.

    - Rei
  • Um.... why does this fail to make me feel better? You'll note in the original newsfeed that the AFL-CIO and others had jumped on the bandwagon stating that they agreed with the interpretation and how wonderful it was that the big bad employers were now legally liable for protecting their poor overworked employees who slave from home. Sorry if I sound cynical, but being involved in a startup whose production facility was shut down for 2 weeks because the mirrors on our upstairs bathroom were 2" too high for handicap regulations (the upstairs wasn't handicap accessible anyway!), has taught me a healthy disrespect for OSHA.

    Don't think for one second that this is over. When the Supreme Court issues a ruling on this, or Congress starts passing bills protecting privacy including home inspecions by employers, then I'll start feeling better about it. OSHA has made a habit of micro-regulating all unsafe behavior, and since everything from eating too much candy to using a soldering iron while wearing a T-shirt is unsafe, my take is: "Give them time." Left unchecked, they will attempt to regulate it.

    Good luck to all of us telecommuters!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    the, "Employees must wash hands before returning to work" sign I put in my bathroom.
  • I was really disappointed to hear this. ONE DAY after it is first proposed?

    The change in question was regarding telecommuting. Do you really want OSHA inspectors in your home? Or regular visits from the equivilant from your employer? How else could an employer make sure your home meets OSHA requirements?

    The answer is simple, the employer CAN'T and wont. Telecommuters would have ended up back in the cube farm again where their employer could micro manage their work environment to limit liability.

  • As someone pointed out (late enough that it'll probably get lost in the shuffle, as will this comment), this was an advisory (not even a proposed regulation) sent to a specific employer when they asked about their situation. Their situation was not telecommuting. It was handling of explosive material, specifically fireworks.

    Now, maybe you think employers should be responsible for their employees' safety if they get their workers to assemble fireworks at home in their spare time, and maybe you don't. But the fact is that the haymakers here weren't "the administration," they were the administration's opponents, who want to take every opportunity possible to pump up the theory "Democrats = regulation, regulation = bad." The RNC went so far as to issue a press release that all but said Gore and Bradley were personally responsible for this stupid oppression of all home workers. Don't believe it--and don't buy into the "we're the anti-government party" rhetoric when either party spouts it. Not all regulations are bad, and conversely, bad regulation cuts across party lines handily (just like overspending and tax raises do).

    And, don't paint OSHA as the bad guys. They're severely understaffed and can't enforce most of what they're charged with anyway--and if you look at most of what they do (instead of digging for spectacular stupids, which any set of regulations will have a few of), those regulations came about after accidents that they're trying to prevent. (The anti-regulation forces always somehow forget that the majority of regulation came about because of public outcry, not because bureaucrats wanted to make their own jobs more difficult.)

  • Down the line, if "creators become fewer" as you say, what would there be to copy? Nothing? But people need software, music, entertainment, so.... software, music, and entertainment would still get created.

    How about we make a law saying that all food must be given away free. People need food, and so it would still get produced, right?

    If all information were free then musicians, artists, software developers and authors would all be to busy doing their "day job" to be able to do much work on creating information. Very few people would be able to afford to work on creating full-time. Quality would go down significantly. A musician who plays music 8 hours per day is generally much better than one who plays 1 hour every couple of days.

    Look at Linux. I can download it for free. Repackage and sell it for free. Build a business on it (Red Hat) for free. The very existance of GNU, FSF, Open Source, Linux, BSD, invalidates your theory.

    No, actually they provide evidence to support my theory. Look at Linux. Look at how much profit the average Linux developer makes off of Linux. Zero. Most Linux developers either have a day job (most likly writing proprietary software, doing tech support, or acting as a sys-admin), while the remaining are generally students. The same is true for most other open-source/free software projects.

    I've contributed to several free software projects myself. I have a day job writing proprietary software. Before that I was a student, living off student loans an co-op (writing proprietary software).

    If I could make a decent living writing free software full time I would. As it is, there are only a few types of software for which a sensible open source business model exists. Device drivers, for example. I'm not interested in writing device drivers, nor are most musicians, painters or sculptors, I would imagine.

    Painters and sculptors can at least make money off the originals. Musicians could theoretically make money from their live performances, but the ticket prices would skyrocket. Creators of digital media, have no such "originals" (since a copy is just as good), and there's no such thing as a "live performance", unless you mean tech support. I don't want to be doing tech support, I want to write code.

    Incidently, has it occurred to you that having support sellers fund open source development is really a conflict of interests?
  • Yes, but basically this reversal means that the company has no limits on what they can do. They can stick you with equipment they could never allow you to use in the workplace.
    Oh, come off it. If you sell or supply "dangerous" equipment then you're libel for damages should anyone be harmed. You've seen product recall, you've seen products banned and company's sued because John Doe got himself poked in the eye.

    Lets take some examples;

    • Company X supplies a company car. The brakes fail, but it's outside the office - do you think they get away with it?
    • Company Y asks an employee to deliver a package. It explodes, but it's outside the office - again, who do you think gets their arses sued?
    Individuals are already well protected, regardless if they're an employee or not, regardless if they're in the office or not. Being an employee does not remove individual protection...
  • Since so many posters have clearly not read the article, I quote:
    "[Herman] said an advisory drafted by departmental officials was informal and was not intended to be taken as a statement of policy for the entire business community. [...]

    Herman said, however, that the controversy has raised important questions about what protections Americans who work at home can expect from the government. She said she will convene a conference of business and labor leaders and set up an interagency task force to conduct a wide-ranging study of the issue."

    The rest of her comments are posted on the OSHA site here. [osha.gov]

    So yes, this will be revisited -- with ample media attention no doubt. No, its not a disaster -- any more than the idea that employers may have some responsibilities for home office conditions is a disaster. It is the start of a broad discussion of a previously unexplored issue that is very relevant to those of us that telecom mute.

    I couldn't find the contorversial letter in a quick scan of the Labor Department [dol.gov] and OSHA [osha.gov] sites. I suppose its been removed. Does anyone have a URL for it? I would have expected to find it here [osha-slc.gov] but its a gonner.

  • Nice line there. I like to take it one step further. From all people who claim "information wants to be free", I would like the following information:

    Where do you live?
    If you have an alarm system, how do I disable it?
    Where in your home is your computer?
    When will you be away from home?

    Privacy concerns can quickly become personal security concerns. It is vital that not all information become free.
  • At the job I used to have I asked about tele-commuting. The head IT guy (who was married to an HR manager) said that one of the reasons they didn't allow it was this OSHA thing.

    That was 2 years ago.

    So the question is, did you HEAR about it yesterday, or did it HAPPEN yesterday.
    ---
  • According to the Washington Post, the OSHA "interpretation" of the rule which applied it to telecommuters was in response to a letter from an employer. The Post said this letter was sent back in November but just reported now. However, who knows how many previous letters or unofficial statements with this "interpretation" were sent out without any publicity (and hence no public outcry at the outright lunacy of this idea). OSHA could have been peddling this crap for years but no employer wanted to protest possibly for fear that OSHA would then suspect them of violating the rule and investigate/intimidate, etc. etc. A lot of supposition on my part in that last statement but it certainly wouldn't surprise me if OSHA had been quietly pushing this for some time, the Post also reported that this "interpretation" has been in the formulation stage for more than two years...

    The three stories in the Post are at:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/2000 -01/04/135l-010400-idx.html
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/2000 -01/05/157l-010500-idx.html
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/2000 -01/05/142l-010500-idx.html
  • Good thing I don't work at home -- OSHA definitely would have nixed that GalaxyQuest crusher corridor I was planning to install....
    /.
  • "[W]e need a national dialogue on this subject," Herman said.

    Newspeak-to-English Translation: "Oops; we've been spotted. Better lie low until the heat's off."
    /.

  • It is not hard to imagine Fortune 1000 companies offering generous telecommuting plans in order to encourage employees to work at home, and thereby excusing themselves from any responsibility for their safety. Then, if you wind up with an RSI due to poor working conditions at home, the company takes no blame despite having pushed you into that situation.

    You know, when people do this with physical goods rather than words, it's called "bait and switch", and it's (quite legitimately) illegal.
    /.


  • The other problem is that sweatshop-like expectations already exist in tech fields. Remember the "high-tech sweatshop" article from a few months back? I see plenty of possibilities for abuse of at-home workers here.

    At a company that shall remain nameless that I used to work for, a "capacity planning" study was going on. Basically, they wanted the "average" time it took someone to perform each and every possible job function. And given the way management worked at that company, if it normally took me 4 minutes to do Task A, and a Task A-like item that was a bit abnormal came across my desk and took me 15 minutes to handle properly, I'd be in trouble.

    In fact, since the volume of work we handled varied so frequently, the department was continually barraged with "What do you people DO all day?" by other departments as well as by our own managers. Um, we try to keep on top of all the ridiculous little projects you keep assigning us, that don't do much beyond eat time anyhow. They also cut our department from six people to four during the year I was there, and rumor has it my position wasn't replaced either (this from a former co-worker that claimed the place went to hell in a handbasket when I left ... *smirk* ... it was already there, believe me!)

    That experience just left a bad taste in my mouth. :P

  • There appears to be an odd bug whereby "Offtopic" moderations are increasing rather than decreasing a post's score.

    I also noticed something weird yesterday where a one-point positive moderation of one of my posts increased my karma by three points.

    Must be Y2Karma problems.

  • It would be unfortunate if the government inspected your own home and made you install 10 fire exstinguishers, 1,000 feet of stainless steel railing, 4 handicap accessible bathrooms and whatever local municpal code is all the rage.

    Can't wait for the health inspector to check out my fridge. "2 month old Peanut butter? $500 fine!"

    Let's keep the banal wanna-be socialism and socialists to a minimum eh?

  • Libertarianism would probably demand to dissolve OSHA completely, my post suggests we keep things the way they are which is the definition of conservative. You are still a socialist though.

    'We all got an opinion' all right, but some of us are actually right!


    • If we didn't have an organization like OSHA we'd be back to the 1800's where it wasn't uncommon for people to die in factories on a regular basis.

    You're right. Before OSHA was established in 1971, conditions were exactly like they were in the 1800's.


    -Jordan Henderson

    • Frankly after giving poiticians a chance (republican or democrat) for a number of years, I'm sick of the lies, the half-truths, etc. Normally I don't see any reason to give them the benefit of the doubt when I've been lied to so many times.

    With your cynicism toward politicians and your apparent belief that Agencies like OSHA protect us from horrific backward conditions, perhaps you'd prefer that Government be taken away from those rascally politicians and give it over to the enlightened beaurocrats you seem to trust.

    After all, if a Government by politicians can't be trusted, how can we trust them to run our cherished Regulatory Agencies?


    -Jordan Henderson

  • It seems that you shouldn't be able to have it both ways.

    If you work at work, they have a responsibility to provide a suitable environs for you to work in. Perhaps there is a tradeoff if you wish to work at home?

    Or, let's look at it this way. What if OSHA said that a business had to provide a reasonable working environment somewhere. The company doesn't want to pay for the desk, chair, and whatever widgets they have for your use at the company as well as the ones you have at home. That is not cost efficient. But you could have a reasonable chair (perhaps the same ones the company buys) and similar ergonomic benifits at home provided you did not have them at work. You are responsible for transporting the company's goods from one place to another. They are, in effect, checked out.

    If you work more at work, you may just for get the whole thing, while if your office at work is more or less where you store things, and you do the bulk of your work at home, you go buy a cheap chair somewhere so when you have to do something at work, you have somewhere to sit.

  • keep the socialism to a minimum? Uh, only if you agree to keep your libertarianism to a minimim. Hey, we've all got an opinion, and they're all political. There is no neutral ground.
  • That's not my view. Basically OSHA does more good than bad for the average worker, therefore I support it. I'm not applying a strict ideology.
  • Yes, I am definatly stereotyping. Frankly after giving poiticians a chance (republican or democrat) for a number of years, I'm sick of the lies, the half-truths, etc. Normally I don't see any reason to give them the benefit of the doubt when I've been lied to so many times.

    Also note I'm calling for something reasonable, don't try to pull me to one end of the "all or nothing" on this issue. I think they should pay for an ergonomic setup, and if you are doing, say, home assembly, and their tools cause you to get injured, they should be liable if the tools are deemed unsafe. Things like that. I'm not calling for this "liable if anything in your house causes you to get hurt" that you seem to suggest.
  • ok, mix up on my part. I'd still put forth the same comments. The fact that there was enough pressure on them to withdraw a semi-formal letter still worries me a lot.
  • Homer J. Simpson today withdrew his suit against Springfield Nuclear Power Plant alleging that the company's decision to allow him to work from home led to a bizarre accident causing the irradiation of his rear end.
  • it is a much more complex issue than the two days of media blitz has exposed. Should OSHA inspectors come into your home and inspect the "work areas" for compliance...no, clearly that is a ridiculous. Should employers be liable under OSHA for a cut on your leg from an exposed nail on the stairway to your basement "work area"...again, clearly no.

    However, should your company be required to comply with the regs addressing ergodynamics. I'm not so certain that it is not unreasonable to require an employer to supply a worker with a good chair . While an employer should not have to renovate an employee's home they should likewise not be able to escape the duty to provide a relatively safe working environment.

    My bet is that you are going to see a hybrid set of regs promulgated shortly addressing telecommuters/at home employees. The issue will be heavily lobbied however, as I am certain that most corps have little or no interest in even providing chairs and wrist rests if they aren't compelled to do so. That bodes poorly for the at home workers as their lobbying might is, well, underwhelming.

    I do, however, guarantee that this is not the last we have heard about OSHA compliance in the home. It's always fun to watch government at work.

    rootrot

  • ...is that the any part of the government can unfuck a poor decision in this short of a time period. And for all those who insist that there should be some kind of regulations for the home: Piss off. Unless you're forced to work at home, you have absolutley no ground to stand on. And even then, you're probably paid well enough to by your own chair. PLaNetJoe and all you monkeys need some exercise.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak@yaHORSEhoo.com minus herbivore> on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @11:58AM (#1400456) Homepage Journal
    IMHO, this could be an unmitigated disaster. Effectively, businesses have been told "if you put all your employees together, in a dangerous area, we'll bust you from here to the ends of the Earth, but if you just give them some plutonium tablets and let them run home like pretty little sheep, we don't give a damn if you run them like a distributed sweat shop until they die of work-related injuries."

    Implications:

    • RSI is an occupational disease, caused by work malpractice. Work at home, and nobody gives a shit. Besides you and your family, who have now lost an income earner and have a seriously disabled adult to contend with, with no support from those who inflicted the injury.
    • Eye-strain and other eye-related work injuries are easy enough to get with a computer, if it's badly set up, badly maintained, or badly used. But, if a boss shoves the bleeding-heart plebs on the streets and tells them to type, guess what! He doesn't have to pay a cent to get a single one of them trained to use the equiptment safely. Nor does he have to pay for anti-glare screens, or supply decent bulbs for quality lighting.
    • If neither the bosses nor insurance companies have to pay for any health care relating to work at home, it suddenly becomes VERY profitable to kick everyone outside, and VERY expensive for those workers who suddenly find that medical costs ain't cheap and they're not covered.
  • by morven2 ( 5718 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @01:58PM (#1400457)
    The IRS doesn't like it, and won't let you. There are rulings about this all the time.

    Basically: if you treat them as if they are an employee, then they ARE an employee.

    Some of the indications they look for:

    * The 'contractors' actually only work for one company.
    * They don't have limited term contracts, or they are constantly, automatically renewed.
    * They're subject to the same employee-handbook type rules and restrictions as employees.
    * No more flexibility in working hours than an employee
  • by Col. Klink (retired) ( 11632 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @12:03PM (#1400458)
    > ONE DAY after it is first proposed?

    Believe it or not, OSHA doesn't use /. to propose regulations. The actual date of the "federal interpetation letter" from OSHA was Nov 15.
  • by DHartung ( 13689 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @05:48PM (#1400459) Homepage
    This is a problem no matter how you look at it.

    With the numbers of home workers now stretching into the millions, there is an urgent need to ensure that these workers are protected from injury. The problem is whose responsibility this is going to be.

    With the publication of this new "interpretive letter", OSHA put thousands of companies on notice that they were now going to be responsible for workplace ergonomics/safety issues in home offices over which they have little direct control.

    At the same time, millions of telecommuters, salesmen, freelancers, consultants, and others found themselves faced with the possibility that the company they now work with at arm's length will suddenly require an inspection of their home office.

    Neither the companies nor the telecommuters, by and large, wanted any part of this. Companies would have been forced to either buy new equipment and expand human resources monitoring, or rescind moves toward telecommuting; workers would have been forced to let the company inspect their home, or return to the office. Very few workers consider RSI a serious problem ... until they get it. A small few might consider this a great opportunity to squeeze some new office furniture out of the company.

    In a word, this regulation could have killed the telecommuting golden goose.

    The good that has been done is to bring this issue to the forefront. The OSHA people are asking for input on how to implement basic regulatory requirements for the home office. This can have a happy ending; for instance, in a related situation, the IRS at first announced highly restrictive new guidelines for tax deductibility of home offices, then Congress rewrote the law so that the status quo would continue.

    The outcome here is possibly/likely going to result in individual responsibility for these safety/ergonomic issues, while signing off on a legal form that absolves the employer of responsibility. Hopefully, in the process, there will also be an education campaign to ensure that these spun-off workers have some sense of how the decisions they're making will affect their future health.
    ----
  • by foxtrot ( 14140 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @11:58AM (#1400460)
    OSHA won't recommend rules for telecommuters' home offices. This is good!

    Unfortunately, the cat's already out of the bag. "What a neat idea", you can almost hear people thinking. "I can now get my employer to buy me a new ergonomic chair for the home office and a keyboard tray and an ergo keyboard and..." And some of these many people work for a company that laughs at the request. And one of those people will develop some form of RSI while telecommuting from home in their non-ergonomic environment.

    And that bastard's gonna sue.

    Soon, his company will be paying out a huge settlement, some of which will be absorbed probably by insurance, being medically related. And the insurance companies will notice. And they'll declare higher rates for companies that allow telecommuting.

    I don't think it will completely kill telecommuting, but once the problem enters the realms of the beancounters, nothing is safe...


  • by MillMan ( 85400 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @11:59AM (#1400461)
    I was really disappointed to hear this. ONE DAY after it is first proposed? Wether or not you agree with some of the specifics (the staircase example seems a bit much), something HAS to be done when 20 Million people work this way, and yes, it needs to be regulated. If we didn't have an organization like OSHA we'd be back to the 1800's where it wasn't uncommon for people to die in factories on a regular basis.

    I wonder where all the pressure came from. Citizens? Or the business lobby? Given the fact that the two politicians that were quoted were Republicans, it must have been mostly from the business side. If you doubt corporate power, getting this blown away in one day should make you think otherwise.

    Also:

    Republican leaders had already pledged to scrutinize OSHA after Congress returns from its holiday break because of regulations the agency
    proposed in November that would require employers to minimize everyday physical - or "ergonomic" - stresses of certain jobs.


    What the hell is wrong with this? This is referring to proposed regulations at the company's site, not even at home. Corporations can't even tolerate these minimal expenses (when they might actually save money due to less employee time lost)? When corporate profits are at or near all time highs, why do we allow them to get away with this? Does anyone else find this to be really unfortunate?
  • by Travoltus ( 110240 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @11:57AM (#1400462) Journal

    Since I sent them a handwritten letter I'll try to recreate some of my points here:

    1) Telecommuting is a giant ergonomic plus in and of itself. The workers will automatically adjust their home environment to their liking for when they are working (and even when they're not).

    2) This being true, the benefit gained by forcing employers to take on the same obligations towards telecommuting workers as they have for onsite employees, will be strongly offset by a cutback in telecommuting programs. This will have a small but negative impact on the environment, as former telecommuters go back to their full morning/nite automobile commute schedule.

    3) Who is to say the telecommuter won't do something to the furniture (say, SELL it)? This opens the door for the necessity of increased monitoring and accounting of their behavior at home, which is already certain to rise to alarming levels just to keep track of their work habits. A company trying to manage a telecommuter's ergonomic safety in the home, looks to be like trying to gently set down a can of charcoal lighter fluid on burning coals. Not a good idea. (And the people who try it won't get to keep their souls. heh.)

    4) For the sake of ergonomic improvements and the environment, I would suggest two revisions:
    A) Publish information about ergonomic issues at home, for telecommuters. Give employers a small financial incentive to disseminate this information. Let the telecommuters make their own well informed ergonomic decisions at home.
    B) Provide more incentives to companies to push more of their tasks that have telecommuting potential, into telecommuting programs. Companies that do this should be assessed tax credits that will be ledgered against environmental funds (in other words take the tax credit loss out on the eco budget because it is, after all, cutting down on pollution from automobile commutes).


    I wrote this last night and threw it in the mailbox this morning. And lo and behold the situation is already resolved. Grrrrrrrrrr. Oh well!
  • by Wellspring ( 111524 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @12:17PM (#1400463)

    Effectively, businesses have been told "if you put all your employees together, in a dangerous area, we'll bust you from here to the ends of the Earth, but if you just give them some plutonium tablets and let them run home like pretty little sheep, we don't give a damn if you run them like a distributed sweat shop until they die of work-related injuries."

    This is a little alarmist. For one thing, most of the telecommuters I know work for small start-ups which can barely afford to put safety rails on the water cooler as is.

    One of the points of working where you live is that you get to make your own environment. OSHA making that decision basically forces companies to either invade your home to shield them from litigation or not allow telecommuting.

    If I put live wires hanging inches from my face, that's my choice. If my top bunk isn't wheelchair accessible, ditto. If I am not hanging "labor friendly" posters over my bed, who cares? The idea of working at home is that you aren't in a cubicle, you have control over how you live and work.

  • by Matt2000 ( 29624 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @11:55AM (#1400464) Homepage
    Its not a coincidence that this retraction comes just hours after a large number of work at home Slashdot readers started filing for damages due to Linux "research" involving the latest Playboy issue.

    I don't think anyone really can know the lasting trauma of a poorly placed papercut till it happens to a sensitive area.

    Hotnutz.com [hotnutz.com]

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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