Magazine article Occupational Hazards

ISEA Welcomes 'Employer-Pay-for-PPE' Rule

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

ISEA Welcomes 'Employer-Pay-for-PPE' Rule

Article excerpt

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a final rule on employer payment of personal protective equipment (PPE) on Nov. 15, 2007. The rule, with a few exceptions, requires "protective equipment, including [PPE] ... [to] be provided by the employer at no cost to employees." The rule applies to construction, maritime and general industry.

The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) welcomes this rule. At every opportunity, both official and not, ISEA expressed to OSHA that employers should pay for all types of PPE, including prescription safety eyewear and steel-toed footwear, for a variety of reasons.

Background

This issue has been pending since the late-1990s. In 1997, the Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission determined OSHA must state in regulatory text that employers shall pay for PPE; rulings via field directives and letters of interpretation would not be allowed. In 1999, OSHA published a proposed rule on employer payment for PPE. The recent final rule is substantially similar to the earlier proposal.

The November 15 final rule clarifies that employers must pay for PPE required by OSHA standards, except for the specific exceptions. If a particular item is not PPE or is not required by OSHA standards, it is not covered by the final rule.

OSHA illustrates its final rule with a listing of PPE that when used to comply with an OSHA standard must be provided by the employer at no cost to the employee. The full list can be found on the ISEA website --www.safetyequipment.org--but highlights include the following: non-prescription eye protection, prescription eyewear inserts/ lenses for full face respirators, welding helmets and diving helmets; non-specialty gloves for protection from dermatitis, severe cuts/ abrasions (but payment for gloves is not required if the gloves are used for keeping clean or for protection from cold weather); aluminized gloves; mesh cut-proof gloves; fall protection; and reflective work vests.

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The rule is complementary to OSHA standards that require employer payment for PPE at no cost to workers. Included in this list are standards covering blood-borne pathogens, respiratory protection and hearing protection.

Specific Exceptions

The specific exceptions from employer payment include non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or steel-toe boots); also, logging boots are the responsibility of logging employees. Non-specialty prescription safety eyewear does not have to be paid for by the employer as long as the employer permits them to be worn off the job-site. …

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