Home-based businesses need OHS consideration

SafetyAtWorkBlog is largely produced from a home-based business and the issues of safety, mental health, work/life balance are real issues in this business.

In the development of OHS regulations, a “workplace” has been fairly generic.  For at least 50 years, our definition of “workplace” has reflected our individual experience of the places we have worked.  (Lately, in Australia, a “workplace” has been designed as a place where work is performed, which raises lots of difficult issues in itself.)  OHS regulations are rarely written by workers in  a home-based business and sometimes the regulations miss this important sector of the workforce and the community.

An article on women’s wages in the Australian Financial Review on 16 March 2010 (not available online without a subscription) includes one paragraph of interesting and relevant statistics:

“The survey [conducted by Beth Walker at Edith Cowan University into women and small business] also looked at the experience of home-based businesses (HBBs).  About a million people work in 850,000 HBBs that represent 57 per cent of all small businesses in 1997 and 68 per cent in 2004.”

This is a sizable chunk of the Australian workforce and one that will only increase as the capacity to communicate, sell and conduct other business through the internet improves with the Federal Government’s national broadband plans.

(Below is a slightly edited United States media release from around 2001 that discusses teleworking.  Some of the statistics may be of comparative interest to some readers.  The comments about national broadband networks was prophetic)

It is important to keep this sector in mind when planning big picture issues like national OHS legislation and small picture issues like advising clients on OHS compliance.

Kevin Jones

[The paragraph reminded me of a conference paper I presented in 2001 that covers some of the issues briefly discussed above.  It can be downloaded HERE but please remember, the paper was written almost a decade ago. An extract is below]

“Any study of Home Based businesses is riddled with basic inconsistencies.   How do you define a home-based business?   Does it have less than 5 employees or less than 20?   Is it any business that operates from a person’s home?  If so, is this the same as working from home?   Can clothing outworkers be a home based business?  Can a licensed sex-worker be a home-based business?   I operate a home based business and from there run an OHS and Risk consultancy and publish a fortnightly safety magazine that has subscribers from around the world.   It is common for employees who are retrenched or want a career or lifestyle change to operate their business, at least initially, from a home base.   This business may expand to have employees or may require a different premises depending on the type of business but working from home has substantial benefits for starting a business.


We need to be clear in what we are talking about.  There is a lot of discussion and information out there on working from home.  Most of this information is talking about what others call telecommuting.   That is, employees undertaking tasks at home that are normally done at work.  The best way to define working from home is that it is a relocation of the office or workstation to a home environment.   This is considerably different from working from home as a home based business.

Fraser Dalgiesh spoke about Working From Home in the Labour Hire & Contractor stream of this conference. He reported that

“a trend towards working from home is becoming evident and will continue to grow with, by 2015, one in every three employees partially working from home”.”

2001 media statement

Work at Home Grows in Past Year by 7.5% in U.S. Use of Broadband for Work at Home Grows by 84%

Today ITAC, the association for advancing work from anywhere, revealed continued increases in home-based work in the United States, as uncovered by the 2004 American Interactive Consumer Survey conducted by The Dieringer Research Group. According to the survey, the number of employed Americans who performed any kind of work from home, with a frequency range from as little as 1 day a year to full time, grew from 41.3 million in 2003 to 44.4 million in 2004, a 7.5% growth rate.

Further, teleworkers who worked at home during business hours at least one day per month increased in the past year from 23.5 million to 24.1 million, a 2.6% increase. Of that 24.1 million, 16.5 million are self employed, a 4.4% increase over 2003. This 24.1 million represents 18.3 percent of employed adult Americans, nearly one-fifth of the workforce.

“As our nation takes time to enjoy the upcoming Labor Day weekend, it is encouraging that so many millions of working Americans have the flexibility to better balance their work and family demands,” said Tim Kane, President of ITAC and with Deloitte. “At the same time, thousands of employers are finding telework is also good for them as a result of improved productivity and the cost savings from reduced overhead.”

Interestingly, the greatest increase in the number of teleworkers (57%) occurred in medium-sized businesses (100 – 999 employees), with no change in the largest firms (1000+ employees).

The report also found increasing use of broadband in the home for work. In 2003 there were 4.4 million teleworkers working at home with broadband. By 2004 the number soared to 8.1 million, an 84% increase. The new figures support the findings of the AT&T Foundation supported Telework America 2003 research, Teleworking Comes of Age with Broadband, which predicted that more workers would telework as they became equipped with broadband.

What is the probable reason for this dramatic broadband growth? For most information-type jobs, the addition of broadband equips the home office equally as well as the employers’ cubicles. “I can be sitting at home and it’s like being in [the] office” was a typical comment in last year’s report. The study, conducted by Joanne H. Pratt of Joanne H. Pratt Associates, found that “being equipped with high-speed ‘always on’ broadband, teleworking employees work more flexibly and productively at home” and that broadband teleworkers have significant interest in working at home full time. Also employers may realize an annual per employee savings of $5,000.

Source: PRNewswire

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories business, evidence, home-based business, OHS, research, safety, Uncategorized, workplaceTags , , , ,

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