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.

May 11, 1981

Mr. Robert E. P. Cooney
General Vice President
International Association of
Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers
Suite 400 1750 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

Dear Mr. Cooney:

Assistant Secretary Auchter has asked me to respond to your letter of April 20, 1981, requesting an interpretation of 29 CFR 1926.28.

In accordance with 29 CFR 1926.28, use of personal protective equipment is required when there is exposure to hazardous conditions or other OSHA standards indicate the need for such equipment. However, when use of the equipment makes it impossible for employees to perform their work or exposes them to more hazardous conditions than they would be exposed to without such equipment, they are not required to use the equipment. Ironworkers climbing structural columns, erecting reinforcing steel or performing other work where foot protection would reduce the safety of the employee in performance of his work are not required by OSHA to wear capped or steel toe permanently inserted foot protection.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act and its construction standards do not address the question of who pays for foot protection. This is a matter normally negotiated through management/labor discussions. Some companies pay for the shoes, others pay a portion of the cost and still others require the employee to purchase the shoes.

Safety shoes and toe caps are considered by OSHA to be equipment.

If we may be of further assistance, please feel free to call or write.


Bruce Hillenbrand
Deputy Director,
Federal Compliance and State Programs