OSHA Standards

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule regarding Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) products. This rule affects the CONSTRUCTION industry, general industry, shipyards, and longshoring/marine terminal workplaces. The rule is being enforced as of May 15, 2008.

What’s different?

The rule expands on many existing OSHA standards and is intended to clarify and provide employers with control over the issuance and use of PPE, including work gloves for hazards such as lacerations, abrasions and chemicals. The updated rule establishes a uniform requirement that employers pay for all types of PPE; required under OSHA standards and provides clarity as to the proper levels of PPE that should be implemented. The rule will also allow OSHA to more properly enforce these guidelines in the work environment.

Why employer payment for PPE?

The ruling cites two main justifications for requiring employers to pay for PPE. First, OSHA concluded that the OSHA Act requires employers to pay for PPE that is necessary for employees to perform their jobs safely. Second, OSHA concluded that the proposed rule would enhance compliance with existing PPE requirements in several practical ways, thereby significantly reducing the risk of non-use or misuse of PPE (64 FR 15406-07).

When employees are required to pay for their own PPE, many are likely to avoid PPE costs and thus fail to provide themselves with adequate protection. OSHA also believes that employees will be more inclined to use PPE if it is provided to them at no cost.

When employers take full responsibility for providing PPE to their employees and paying for it, they are more likely to make sure that the PPE is correct for the job, that it is in good condition, and that the employee is protected.

When does the rule go into effect?

The final rule went into effect May 15, 2008. OSHA has acknowledged that many collective bargaining agreements specifying how certain PPE will be paid for by either the employer or employees. Delaying the effective date for 6 months, OSHA has allowed employers and employees time to renegotiate agreements to conform to the new rule. As of May 15, 2008 OSHA began citing employers not adhering to the new ruling resulting in fines up to $7,000 per violation.

What PPE is included?

Employers must pay for PPE required by OSHA standards or by the employer’s worksite hazard. Examples include, but are not limited to:

It is important to note that some specific OSHA PPE standards already require employers to pay for 95 percent of PPE. With the new rule being enforced, employers will pay for all PPE with fewer exceptions. 13 of the 26 states with state-run OSHA plans already require payment for most PPE and three states (California, Minnesota, and Puerto Rico) require payment for all PPE. States with state OSHA plans will be required to revise their plans by May 15, 2008 if they do not meet or exceed the new Federal requirements.