Hazardous duty

To: All home-based workers
From: The federal Work-at-Home Occupations Administration (WHOA)

It has come to our attention here at WHOA that a growing number of Americans are working at home, partly because high gasoline prices discourage commuting and partly because workers are tired of getting dressed in the morning.

WHOA warns all Americans that home offices have their dangers, same as other workplaces. Hazards often are overlooked because there is no direct management supervision. While this may make workers “happy,” it also means there’s no one to enforce safety regulations or say “put that down before you hurt yourself.”

People who work at home may not practice proper “ergonomics” (from the Latin for “hunchback”). They use desks and/or chairs purchased at rummage sales and slapped together any old which-way rather than government-approved, adjustable office furniture designed to enforce proper posture. This can result in long-term health issues and bad vibes.

Research has shown that these are the Top 10 injuries suffered by at-home workers:

1) Carpal tunnel syndrome is a severe nerve problem in the wrists caused by improper computer “keyboarding” and mouse usage. Make sure your chair and computer are properly aligned so that you maintain a “wide stance.” Repetitive motions, such as those that result from playing Guitar Hero, should be avoided.

2) Eating and drinking at your desk is hazardous, particularly if hot coffee is involved. Not only can injury result, but studies have found that eating chips-and-salsa over your keyboard can result in computer failure.

3) Paper cuts are common and can be quite painful, especially if you get salt and/or salsa in the wounds. Workers should always wear gloves.

4) Bruises result from inadvertently whamming knees and elbows into your desk or into other immovable objects in the home office. Safety tip: Sit still.

5) Many at-home workers fall afoul of fasteners such as staples, paper clips and thumbtacks. These metal objects will pierce the skin, and infection can result. Scotch tape is recommended for all applications.

6) Rubber bands, placed under too much strain, can snap and give the user painful “hickeys.”

7) Beware the paper shredder.

8) Many home-office accidents result from workers standing on swivel chairs or other inappropriate places in attempts to reach high shelves or change light bulbs. This behavior should be avoided. Keep office supplies and other items on the down-low to avoid overreaching.

9) Most home offices are equipped with many electrical gizmos, including, but not limited to: Computers, monitors, scanners, printers, shredders, fans, lamps, phones, coffeemakers, stereos and assorted power tools. Do not plug all of these items into the same outlet, surge protector or power strip. You could start a fire and/or electrocute yourself, which could prevent you from making your production quotas.

10) Madness is a common ailment among those who work at home. Combining your office workload with the many demands of home, spouse and children can push you right over the edge. Most health insurance plans do not cover deadline madness, gibbering insanity or “the jumps.” On the other hand, if you’re at home all day, nobody will witness you talking to yourself or behaving strangely. (Other than family members, and they’re probably used to it by now.)

Many at-home workers are self-employed or freelance, which means they have little or no health insurance and no Washington lobbyists on their payrolls. It’s especially important for these workers to avoid injury and/or death.

Contact our agency for further information. We’re here to help. When you think of working at home, think WHOA.

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