(by Elton Mwangi)
There are inherent risks of injury that employers must consider in terms of workers’ compensation insurance for remote employees.
According to a 2020 Chubb survey, 41% of Americans have experienced new or increased shoulder, neck, or back pain since they started telecommuting. Are you alarmed yet? Well, here’s more:
- 40% of remote workers are not working from a dedicated desk
- 93% of chiropractors stated that more patients report more back pain, neck pain, and other musculoskeletal issues after starting to telecommute
- 60% of remote workers aren’t able to get equipment from employers
What do we learn from these statistics? Remote work doesn’t necessarily remove the need for workers’ compensation.
Can You Get Workers’ Compensation If You Work from Home?
Yes. You can get workers’ compensation if you work from home.
Generally, a workers’ illness or injury is compensable under workers’ compensation if it arises in the course of and out of employment, despite the location of the injury. Employees must prove that they were acting in the company’s interests during the injury to make a successful compensation claim.
When a worker operates from home, it’s presumed that the hazards they face when telecommuting are the hazards of their employment. That’s why courts deem the employer’s lack of control over the conditions of home-based work premises irrelevant.
It’s the responsibility of employers to offer a safe work environment for both onsite and remote employees.
Common Injuries for Remote Workers
Cumulative injuries are pain and damage resulting from overuse and repetitive movement. These are easily caused by the poor ergonomics of the remote workers’ workstations.
Common cumulative injuries include back pain, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis. That’s why remote employees should use ergonomic workstations for a comfortable posture, ensuring the neck isn’t bent back, arms aren’t lifted or extended beyond the side, the spine isn’t twisted, the lower back is supported, and hands and wrists aren’t turned upward or sideways.
Trips, Slips, and Falls
The National Safety Council states that trips, slips, and falls are the most regularly reported accidents in the US.
A majority of workplaces have safety procedures for reducing trip, slip, and fall hazards at the workplace. But the risk increases when employees work from home. While phone charge cords and toys can cause you to fall, spills can cause slipping, resulting in a fall.
How to Implement Safe Telecommuting Practices
Injuries increase remote employee workers’ compensation claims, hurting your bottom line. Thus, avoiding claims keeps your workers’ compensation premiums low.
It’s often hard to determine if an injury is job-related because the line between personal and professional time is blurred. Therefore, follow the following steps to create a remote work environment that keeps remote employees safe and reduces business risk:
Develop a Remote Work Policy
A remote work policy helps to define the worker’s job duties and set expectations around meetings, status updates, and virtual communication. It also defines how remote workers can clock in and out virtually and document the process.
Establish Home Office Guidelines
Such guidelines include complying with organization policies while telecommuting, creating a workspace free from distraction, and following a schedule for work hours, breaks, and meals.
The remote workspace should also have guidelines like:
- Proper lighting
- Right equipment (headset, computer, mouse, and phone)
- Chair, desk, and closeable door
Design a Home Safety Checklist
A home safety checklist identifies physical hazards like poor lighting, loose cords, and overloaded electrical outlets to prevent on-the-job injuries.
Moreover, it has tips for minimizing potential risks, like removing clutter in the remote worker’s home office.
It must also have ergonomics information to enhance employee comfort at the workstation and avoid issues like back pain.
Handling Workers’ Compensation for Remote Employees
According to the Going and Coming Rule, workers are not compensated for injuries attained during a commute to work. But if an employer adopts a hybrid office set-up, the employee’s home is a secondary job site. Therefore, the injury is compensable if an employee gets into a car accident when moving between their home and the main workplace.
If a remote employee gets injured by tripping on their way to get coffee or slipping in the bathroom, the personal comfort doctrine states that the injured employee can claim compensation if the activities are necessary for their personal comfort; and they are!
So, can you get workers’ compensation if you work from home? Utterly, yes. Employers must offer a safe work environment for both remote and onsite workers.
Companies must consider cumulative injuries and accidents resulting from trips, slips, and falls as they’re most common in workers’ compensation for remote employees. It’s necessary to design a remote work policy, create home office guidelines, and design a home office checklist to minimize the risk of injuries and reduce the cost of workers’ compensation.
But where does Zupnick and Associates come in? We protect your business by finding the best workers’ compensation to suit your workplace needs.