Q&A on New OSHA Standards for PPE
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recently issued a final
rule regarding Employer Payment for PPE products. This rule affects the CONSTRUCTION
industry, general industry, shipyards, and longshoring/marine terminal workplaces.
The rule was issued on November 15, 2007 and is already being enforced as of May
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 OSH 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
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:
- Work gloves, when required for hazards such as lacerations, abrasions and chemicals
- Hard hats
- Welding helmets/shields and welding leathers
- Metatarsal guards
- Specialty footwear, such as steel-toe rubber boots or shoes with non-slip soles
- Specialty prescription eyewear, such as special-use prescription glasses that allow
employees to wear respirators
- Respirators required to comply with OSHA standards
- Hearing protection
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
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