Magazine article Occupational Hazards

PPE Needs Uniform Warnings

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

PPE Needs Uniform Warnings

Article excerpt

It is not often on Capitol Hill that Democrats and Republicans work together to solve serious problems, particularly ones dealing with safety in the workplace. However, on October 6, 1992, I joined with my Republican colleague from Michigan, Representative Paul B. Henry, to introduce the "Worker Protection Warnings Act of 1992."

If enacted, this legislation will benefit the workers who use personal protective equipment and their employers as well as the companies who manufacture it. Currently, the warnings and instructions provided by manufacturers of similar personal protective equipment are not uniform.

As a result, workers may have to be retrained by their employer when the employer changes brands of personal protective equipment or when the worker moves to a new job with a new employer. Furthermore, standards for warnings and instructions can only be mandated on a state-by-state basis, creating a system which is cumbersome, inconsistent, and confusing to workers, safety directors, and protective equipment manufacturers.

The "Worker Protection Warnings Act" will eliminate this confusion by directing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish and mandate uniform warnings for protective equipment. A federal uniform warning requirement for various types of personal protective equipment would improve equipment designed to protect their well-being, as well as simplifying the worker training process. Uniform warnings will also remove the undue burden now placed on manufacturers who must comply with multiple state guidelines.

OSHA would be directed to arrive at uniform warnings through a participatory rulemaking procedure involving workers, employers, human factors experts, manufacturers of safety equipment, and other experts in the field.

The legislation defines the term "warning" as any statement directing or describing one or more actions, procedures, or prohibitions relating to the use of personal protective equipment, which, if not complied with, may result in personal injury or death to the user of the equipment. These warnings would relate to the personal protective equipment for occupational use which is intended to protect the eyes, face, head, hearing, extremities, or respiratory tract from workplace hazards. Additionally, the equipment may function as protective clothing, as a protective shield or barrier, as personal fall arrest or safety devices, or as safety and health monitoring and instrumentation devices. …

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