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.

May 27, 2003

The Honorable Frank Lautenberg
United States Senate
Washington, D.C 20510

Dear Senator Lautenberg:

Thank you for your letter dated March 28, 2003 on behalf of your constituent, Mr. Dan Clare, President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) -- Local 1303, regarding an interpretation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard at 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(6)(iii). You requested that OSHA respond to the question, "Who is required to pay for apparel covered by paragraph 1910.269(l)(6)(iii)?"

According to 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(6)(iii), "[t]he employer shall ensure that each employee who is exposed to the hazards of flames or electric arcs does not wear clothing that, when exposed to flames or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury that would be sustained by the employee." During the development of this standard in the early 1990s, OSHA found that employees who were exposed to electric arcs were being injured as a result of their clothing catching on fire. OSHA also found that the extent of their injuries increased because of the continued burning of their clothing, even after the arcs were extinguished. At that time, however, there was no national consensus standard in effect to help guide OSHA in determining what specific protective clothing employees must wear. Therefore, OSHA decided to adopt a rule prohibiting employers from allowing their employees to wear clothing that could increase the extent of personal injury, should exposures to electric arcs or flames occur. The rule also specifically prohibits clothing made from polyester, acetate, nylon, and rayon, either alone or in blends, unless the employer can demonstrate that the fabric has been appropriately treated or that the clothing is worn in such a manner as to eliminate the potential hazard involved. Because 1910.269 simply restricts the types of clothing employees may wear while working near electrical energy sources capable of producing electric arcs or flames, and does not include any affirmative requirements for fire-resistant or other types of clothing, the issue of who pays for the clothing does not arise.

At present, OSHA is developing a proposal as a part of a project to update standards related to the construction and maintenance of electric power, generation, transmission, and distribution installations. The question of whether and what type of protective clothing should be provided to employees is an issue in the proposal. We would encourage Mr. Clare to actively participate in the forthcoming rulemaking process. He may contact Mr. David Wallis in OSHA's Directorate of Standards and Guidance to request specific information regarding the proposal at 202-693-2064.

We hope this response is helpful to you. Thank you for your continued interest in occupational safety and health. If we can be of further assistance, please contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.

Sincerely,

John L. Henshaw
Assistant Secretary