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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 https://www.osha.gov.
June 29, 2012
Mr. Kenneth Ray Douglas
2707 Timber Drive
Dickinson, Texas 77539
Dear Mr. Douglas:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP). We apologize for the delay in our response to you. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. You had specific concerns regarding diabetics wearing steel toed safety shoes.
Scenario: You are employed by a Maritime Security Company, as a security guard. Your primary duties include marshalling personnel and providing them with directions once they have entered the terminal. You have been diagnosed with diabetes and have been advised by your doctor not to wear steel-toed work boots. Following a policy memo from your employer dated September 30, 2010, to employees..." Steel-toed shoes must be worn, no exceptions." Your doctor from the Veterans Administration provided you with a letter, advising against wearing steel-toed shoes.
Question 1: Is it the company's responsibility to accommodate your medical condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
Response 1: To determine whether your medical condition is a disability covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), please refer to the following link;www.eeoc.gov.
Question 2: Are there any companies that make special shoes for diabetics?
Response 2: Safety-toe protective footwear is manufactured in a wide variety of styles and in a wide variety of materials. As stated in the incoming memo from your employer,"there are many different styles and brands of safety toe shoes. [p]lease find one that meet your needs." Some companies market their shoes for people who have diabetes and complications from diabetes. These shoes include the following features: advanced styling for better comfort and extra wide fitting steel toe caps, and non-metallic toe caps for a non-interference fit around the toes of a diabetic worker. OSHA does not endorse or suggest any particular manufacturers or companies.
Question 3: "What is my employer required to do under the OSH Act in response to my doctor's advice that I not wear steel toe work boots because of my dysmetabolic syndrome, including hypertension and diabetes that can affect circulation in the extremities?"
Response 3: Under the OSH Act, employers are required to protect their employees from hazards in the workplace but the protection afforded must not cause the employee harm. Employees who medically cannot wear a particular type of personal protective equipment required by their employer should discuss this issue with their employer to determine if alternate protections or reasonable accommodations are available. If an employee is working in an area where known hazards exist, the employer is required to protect the employee from those hazards. The employer may do so through engineering controls, administrative controls and/or personal protective equipment. OSHA standard, 29 CFR 1910.136(a) addresses foot protection and states, "[t]he employer shall ensure that each affected employee wears protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects piercing the sole...." OSHA's general requirements for Personal Protective Equipment, 29 CFR 1910.132 (d)(iii), Hazard assessment and equipment selection, provide that the employer shall"[s]elect PPE that properly fits each affected employee."
Question 4: Do I have to wear steel-toed safety shoes if I am working inside a cruise ship terminal directing passengers; while other non-security contract employees are not required to wear such shoes?
Response 4: It is the employer's responsibility to assess hazards that are present or likely to be present and select those types of PPE that will protect affected employees from the hazards identified. Refer to the response to question 3.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry and Agricultural Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs