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.

June 1, 2015

David Barnett
Special Representative
United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters
Pipeline and Gas Distribution Department
1300 Derek Street
Haskell, OK 74436

Dear Mr. Barnett:

This is in response to the August 13, 2013 email to Lloyd Boom, former safety and health specialist in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Directorate of Construction, inquiring on laundering responsibilities for fire retarding (FR) clothing for employees working as welders, pipefitters, welder helper in the unionized pipeline and gas distribution sector.

We have paraphrased your question below followed by our answer:

Question: Under OSHA regulations 29 CFR 1926.95(a) who is responsible for the laundering of fire retarding clothing that is provided to employees?

Answer: Criteria for Personal Protective Equipment - Title 29 CFR 1926.95(a) section states:

(a) Application. Protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers, shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment, chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.

Pursuant to the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.95(a), the standard does not prohibit home laundering of FR and arc-rated clothing if the employer permits it. However, to comply with 1910.132 or 1926.95, the employer cannot simply instruct employees to follow manufacturers' instructions. Employers must ensure that protective clothing such as FR garments are adequately maintained in a reliable condition such that if the FR garment is challenged in a flash fire, the garment will perform as designed. In other words, the employer is responsible for ensuring that the FR garment is laundered such that contaminants (e.g. dirt, oils, etc.) will not affect the performance of the garment when it is in use. If employers rely on home laundering of the clothing, they must train their employees in proper laundering procedures and techniques, and employers must inspect the clothing on a regular basis to ensure that it is not in need of repair or replacement. If an employer cannot meet these conditions, then the employer is responsible for laundering the FR and arc-rated clothing.

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 Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2020.

Sincerely,

James G. Maddux, Director
Directorate of Construction