Can OSHA regulate the Metaverse? | Knowledge

We are supposed to stand more and sit less. That’s good advice for your health, but maybe not always when wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset, which presents some occupational health and safety concerns.

The most obvious danger is getting too carried away and, say, crashing into your TV. But there are other potential risks. Some are short-lived, such as headaches, neck pain, nausea, and eye discomfort. Others may be longer-term, including concerns about nearsightedness caused by the disconnect between a screen inches from your eyes and depicting virtual objects miles away. Very, very smart people are working on this one.

Can the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulate these potential risks? Maybe some more than others.

The main risk is the one we all know: disorientation followed by a fall or crash. OSHA can likely regulate this hazard under the “General Duty Clause,” a broad provision of the law that requires employers to maintain a workplace free of recognized serious hazards. When RV sets are used, employers must ensure that employees are safe in their space and cannot harm themselves or others.

As for the problems caused by wearing the helmet, such as headaches, neck pain or back pain, this is undoubtedly an ergonomic problem and therefore less sensitive to OSHA regulations. OSHA attempted to require special attention to workplace ergonomics at the end of the Clinton administration, but this effort was overruled by Congress. Since then, OSHA has relied on the general duty clause for ergonomic hazards. In theory, VR headsets that fit ill-fitting, are too heavy, or are worn too long could become a hazard under the General Duty Clause, but an official OSHA standard on the subject could be legally difficult.

What about other common complaints, such as eye strain, headaches, dizziness or nausea? The general obligation clause only covers risks that could result in death (not applicable) or “serious physical damage. The types of complaints described above may not meet this threshold, especially if they do not recur or require medical treatment. However, if complaints persist, result in lost work time, or are indicators of more serious health issues caused or exacerbated by too much RV time, then OSHA may be able to intervene. under the general obligation clause.

Also consider the effects of VR headsets on employees’ eyes and ears. OSHA has a standard requiring employers to protect employees from certain levels of noise exposure, regardless of the resulting harm. And there’s also the potential allegation that VR time resulted in eye or ear damage, though it may be difficult for OSHA – or an employee in a civil lawsuit – to prove that any decrease damage to hearing or vision has been caused by prolonged use of a VR headset, as the headset market grows 20% per year and the average American adult stares at screens for at least 11 hours a day .

Finally, OSHA record-keeping requirements may apply to VR-related injuries and illnesses. Every employer must report workplace fatalities and certain extremely serious injuries and illnesses. This includes injuries and illnesses that occur while working from home. Many low-risk industries are exempt from recording other injuries and illnesses – although industries of all kinds are embracing virtual reality and other metaverse technologies.

Holland & Knight’s Metaverse strategy team includes experienced lawyers who are recognized thought leaders in the field. The Metaverse Strategy Team represents dozens of clients, including Fortune 500 companies and tech startups, as these companies navigate the Metaverse landscape.

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