Employees who work from home are responsible for maintaining a safe environment in their home offices. In addition to optimizing workstation ergonomics, various other safety factors must be considered. Review the topics below to ensure you are safe from common home office hazards.

Contact EHS if you have questions about working from home safely, or for a consultation about any particular safety topic.

General Safety

Consider the following general safety issues that may impact your home office work environment.

  • Is the workplace away from noise, distractions and devoted to the employee’s work needs?
  • Does the workspace accommodate a workstation, equipment and related material?
  • Are file drawers heavy and can they open into walkways?
  • Is temperature, ventilation and lighting adequate?
  • Is there a reliable method of communication with emergency services or the employer (landline phone or cell phone)?

Slips, Trips and Falls

Slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of workplace injuries, and there are no shortage of tripping hazards in our homes. Falls in the home injure and kill people every year, so check your home for hazards using the information provided below.

  • Are floors clear and free from obstructions that could cause a trip or fall?
  • Are phone lines and electrical cords secured under a desk or along a wall?
  • Are all stairs equipped with a handrail?
  • Are carpets/area rugs secured to the floor and free of frayed or worn seems?
  • Are loose fitting clothes being worn which can contribute to a trip and fall?
  • Is lighting adequate to ensure there are no areas that are very dark or difficult to see within?
  • Are shoes being worn? Socks can present a slip hazard.

Electrical Safety

Employees who work from home should also be aware of electrical hazards and should take the necessary steps to correct them.

  • Check electric cords often for damage. Have damaged cords repaired right away. Worn cords can cause shock, short circuit or fire.
  • Pull the plastic housing of the electric plug to take it out of the wall socket; never pull on the cord.
  • Are sufficient electrical outlets accessible?
  • Do not overload electric outlets with too many items plugged in at once.
  • Is computer equipment plugged into a surge protector?
  • Unplug any appliance that emits sparks or that does not work properly.
  • Always unplug an appliance before cleaning or repairing it.
  • Remember that a turned-off appliance is still connected to electricity until it is unplugged.
  • Limit use of extension cords. Make sure the cord is the appropriate size for use. Some appliances or equipment require heavy-duty cords.

Fire Safety

In addition to electrical and other safety issues, employees working from home also need to be aware of what can cause a fire, whether in the office/workspace or other parts of the home.

  • Does the home have working smoke detectors in the workspace area as well as the rest of the home?
  • Is a multi-use fire extinguisher readily available and does the employee know how to use it?
  • Are exits, walkways and aisles unobstructed?
  • Is the workplace free of trash, clutter and flammables?
  • All radiators and portable heaters located away from flammable/combustible items?
  • Is there an evacuation plan in case of a fire or other emergency?


Lighting is a very important part of safety within the home in general, but particularly within a home workspace. Dark areas can lead to slips, trips and falls, as well as damage to equipment. Lighting fixtures could also cause a fire if the bulb is the incandescent type and is situated close to combustible materials.

Consider the following issues regarding lighting throughout your home, and within your home office.

  • Are work areas, kitchen counters, desks, workbenches, garages, laundry rooms and basements well-lit?
  • Are outlet and switch covers in good condition so no wiring is exposed?
  • Are outlet or switch plate hot to the touch? If so, this can indicate an unsafe wiring condition.
  • Is there discoloration present at/above switch plates or outlets? This can indicate a potentially dangerous heat buildup at these connections.
  • Do any light switches work intermittently? This can indicate loose wiring or an internally cracked device.
  • Make sure all lamps and light fixtures are certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or Intertek (ETL).
  • Always use a bulb of the correct type and wattage.
  • If you do not know the correct wattage, contact the manufacturer of the lamp or fixture. A bulb with excessive wattage may overheat and cause a fire.
  • Install bulbs with extended lifespans in hard-to-reach locations to limit the number of times you have to climb a ladder, move furniture, or engage in potentially dangerous activities.
  • Read and follow manufacturers’ safety instructions for fixtures, lamps, and light bulbs.
  • Make sure bulbs are screwed in securely. Loose bulbs may overheat.


There are many different types of chemicals in products used in the home, whether those products are cleaning agents, paints, or other items. It is important for employees working from home to recognize that even though certain products are targeted for use in the home, they can still pose hazards if used improperly or if over-exposure occurs.

  • Read the product label. Be sure to understand and follow what it says regarding how to use the product safely, how to protect yourself when using it and how to properly store it. The manufacturer’s contact information always is on the label if more information is needed.
  • More is not better, just more dangerous. Use all chemicals sparingly in the home.
  • Don’t take the hazardous chemical out of the original container and place it in another container, such as an old plastic milk jug or an empty liter soda bottle.
  • After using, immediately wash hands – or any other part of the body that may have come into direct contact with the substance with warm soapy water.
  • Follow safety recommendations when using hazardous substances.
  • Properly ventilate the area by turning on the fan and opening the windows. If recommended, wear gloves, long sleeves and masks.
  • Don’t leave chemical products unattended. If you must leave the room in the middle of a task, either put the product away or take it with you.
  • Dispose of household and chemical products that are leaking, expired or look bad.