Many Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards require
employers to provide their employees with protective equipment, including
personal protective equipment (PPE), when such equipment is necessary
to protect employees from job-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
These requirements address PPE of many kinds: hard hats, gloves, goggles,
safety shoes, safety glasses,
welding helmets and goggles, faceshields, chemical protective equipment,
fall protection equipment, and so forth. The OSHA standards generally state
that the employer is to provide such PPE. However, the issue of who pays for
the PPE has often been unclear.
This month OSHA has issued a clarification requiring employers to pay
for the PPE provided to employees, with exceptions for specific items.
The rule does not require employers to provide PPE where none has been required
before. Instead, the rule merely stipulates that the employer must pay for required
PPE, except in limited cases.
This final rule becomes effective on February 13, 2008. The final rule must be
implemented by May 15, 2008.
Is the Employer required to pay for an employees
For most PPE provisions in OSHA's standards, however, the regulatory text
does not explicitly address the issue of payment for personal protective equipment.
For example, 29 CFR 1910.132(a) is the general provision requiring employers
to provide PPE when necessary to protect employees. This provision states that
the PPE must be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition.
It does not state that the employer must pay for it or that it must be provided at
no cost to employees. The provisions that are silent on whether the employer must
pay have been subject to varying interpretation and application by employers,
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (Review Commission),
and the courts.
The latest OSHA
standard has been revised to identify PPE that
must be paid for by the employer and which PPE the
employer is exempted from paying for.
Examples of PPE Exempted From the Employer Payment Requirements
Non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear (e.g., steel-toe shoes/ boots).
Non-specialty prescription safety eyewear.
Sturdy work shoes.
Ordinary cold weather gear (coats, parkas, cold weather gloves, winter boots).
Logging boots required under Sec.1910.266(d)(1)(v).
Ordinary rain gear.
Long sleeve shirts.
Dust mask/respirators used under the voluntary use provisions in Sec. 1910.134.
Examples of PPE for Which Employer Payment Is Required
[If used to comply with an OSHA standard]
Metatarsal foot protection.
Special boots for longshoremen working logs.
Rubber boots with steel toes.
Shoe covers--toe caps and metatarsal guards.
Non-prescription eye protection.
Prescription eyewear inserts/lenses for full face respirators.
Prescription eyewear inserts/lenses for welding and diving helmets.
Laser safety goggles.
Fire fighting PPE (helmet, gloves, boots, proximity suits, full gear).
Items used in medical/laboratory settings to protect from exposure to infectious agents
(Aprons, lab coats, goggles, disposable gloves, shoe covers, etc).
Payment is required if protection from dermatitis, severe cuts/abrasions.
Payment is not required if they are only for keeping clean
Payment is not required for cold weather comfort.
Chemical resistant gloves/aprons/clothing.
Barrier creams (unless used solely for weather-related protection).
Rubber insulating gloves.
Mesh cut proof gloves, mesh or leather aprons.
SCBA, atmosphere-supplying respirators (escape only).
Ladder safety device belts.
Climbing ensembles used by linemen (e.g., belts and climbing hooks).
Window cleaners safety straps.
Personal flotation devices (life jacket).
Encapsulating chemical protective suits.
Reflective work vests.
What is Employee
Loses or Misuses the PPE?
OSHA intends to require employers to pay for the initial issue of PPE and for
replacement PPE that must be replaced due to normal wear and tear or occasional
loss. Only in the rare case involving an employee who regularly fails to bring
employer-supplied PPE to the job-site, or who regularly loses the equipment,
would the employer be permitted to require the employee to pay for replacement
PPE (64 FR 15414).
OSHA also noted that if an employee misuses or damages the PPE, the employer may ask
the employee to pay for replacement.
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