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OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
February 4, 1975
Honorable Richard S. Schweiker
United States Senate
Washington, D. C. 20510
Dear Senator Schweiker:
This is in response to your letter dated December 10, 1974, requesting a more specific response to the meat cutters situation as stated in Mr. Carter's letter dated October 11, 1974.
As discussed in my letter of November 25, 1974, under the Occupational Safety and Health Standards, personal protective equipment must be used when there is a reasonable probability of injury, that can be prevented by such protective equipment. As relates to this industry, the hazards and exposure to employees, with resultant injuries to hands, fingers, and abdominal areas, have long been recognized. The meat and meat products industry, of which this occupation is related, was one of five target industries identified by OSHA in 1971 for special emphasis because of the high incidence of injuries. Many companies require, as a company policy, the use of protective equipment, such as wire mesh gloves, when an employee exposure exists.
In view of the above, if an Occupational Safety and Health Administration Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) identifies an employee exposure in a supermarket during an inspection, which could result in a reasonable probability of injury, a citation will be issued. If the circumstances are such that the employee is not subjected to such probable injury, the employee would not be required to be so protected.
In regard to Mr. Carter's comments relative to employees refusal to wear personal protective equipment, the following comments are offered. If, as discussed above, and in my previous letter, a hazard has been identified, and the employer, in good faith, requires the use of appropriate equipment, there is also an employee responsibility under Section 5(b) of the Act. And, although the Act provides for the issuance of citations and proposed penalties only to employers, the Act does not dilute the employer's right to direct his workforce or to require that employees comply with instructions and company rules. In some cases, these matters are resolved through labor/management discussions.
I trust that this information will satisfactorily cover the questions that were raised. If I may be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.
Benjamin L. Brown
Deputy Under Secretary for