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 https://www.osha.gov.

December 2, 1976

Mr. Robert G. Patterson
P.O. Box 296
Ellwood City, Pennsylvania 16117

Dear Mr. Patterson:

This is in response to your correspondence of November 13, 1976, concerning Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations governing the use of personal protective equipment.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and its standards require that personal protective equipment be used when there is a reasonable probability of injury that can be prevented by such equipment. The use of personal protective equipment under conditions not required by OSHA standards is solely a matter of employment conditions existing between an employer and his employees. Many employers make compliance with certain work rules, which may include the wearing of personal protective equipment, a condition of employment even if there is no OSHA requirement. It may be of benefit to you to discuss this situation with your employer.

Failure to wear personal protective equipment can affect the safety of other workers at the same location. A worker injured because of his failure to have or use protective equipment could easily create a situation hazardous to his fellow workers. Good examples would be injured crane or tow motor operators.

As you did not provide the name of your employer, OSHA cannot comment with specificity on your situation. However, if you would like to discuss the matter in more detail, personnel from the OSHA office serving your locale would be happy to meet with you. The address and telephone number of that office follow:

[USDOL OSHA, Pittsburgh Area Office
Federal Office Building, Room 1428
1000 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222-4101
Phone: (412) 395-4903
Fax: (412) 395-6380]

If I may be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.


Richard P. Wilson, Acting Director,
[Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs]

[Corrected 10/22/2004]