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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.
March 27, 1998
Mr. Daniel T. Hopper, Jr.
Occupational Safety and Health Engineer
4532 39th Street
Zachary, Louisiana 70791
Dear Mr. Hopper:
Thank you for your letter of January 24, requesting an interpretation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), regarding the use of fire retardant clothing in various industries, which does not include fire fighting brigades, and electrical distribution. In your letter you asked for a response from OSHA for five specific questions, which are listed below.
Have there been any directives issued to Area Offices that would mandate the use of Fire Retardant Clothing other than those for fire brigades and electrical distribution workers?
The answer to your question is no. However, the Grain Handling Facilities Standard, 29 CFR 1910.272 Appendix A, Section 3, Training, states that the types of work clothing should also be considered in the training program at least to caution against using polyester clothing that easily melts and increases the severity of burns, as compared to wool or fire retardant cotton.
The Coke Oven Emissions Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1029(h)(1) states that the employer shall provide and assure the use of appropriate protective clothing and equipment, such as but not limited to: flame resistant jacket, pants, and gloves.
The Personal Protective Equipment Standard, Subpart I 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1) requires the employer to assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). If such hazards are present, or likely to be present, the employer shall select, and have each affected employee use, the types of PPE that will protect the affected employee from the hazards identified in the hazard assessment.
Have there been any studies conducted on the economic impact that may be encountered with the use of Fire Retardant Clothing?
OSHA has not conducted an economic impact study on the use of Fire Retardant Clothing.
If the use of these garments are in fact required, should one, as a Designated Competent Person for the Personal Protective Equipment Standard, be concerned with any associated heat and cold stress factors that may be present due to atmospheric conditions?
The answer to your question is yes. Stress factors such as heat and cold atmospheric conditions are hazards that are covered under our Personal Protective Equipment Standard, Subpart I, 29 CFR 1910.132(a).
If a company issues fire retardant clothing that is in disrepair knowing that the garments are defective, could they be found in violation of any of the OSHA standards?
The answer to your question is yes. The Personal Protective Equipment Standard, Subpart I, 29 CFR 1910.132(e) states that defective or damaged personal protective equipment shall not be used.
Could I, as a Safety and Health Engineer, use a negative hazard assessment to determine the need for fire retardant clothing based on the factors such as past history and present Process Safety Management progressions?
The answer to your question is yes. 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1) states the employer shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). If such hazards are present, or likely to be present, the employer shall: select, and have each effected employee use, the types of PPE that will protect the affected employee from the hazards identified in the hazard assessment.
Thank you for your interest in safety and health. If you have any questions or concerns please contact Russelle McCollough of my staff, at (202) 219-8031.
John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs