Trade News Release
Wednesday, March 31, 1999
Media Contact: Frank Kane(202) 693-1999
Technical Inquires: Glen Gardner (202) 693-2255
OSHA WANTS EMPLOYERS T0 PAY FOR MOST PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT USED BY WORKERS
Employers must pay for most personal protective equipment of their employees, according to a new rule proposed today by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"The proposed requirement would give better protection to workers against injury, illness or death," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "Employers are in a better position to select and provide the correct equipment needed to protect against specific job hazards."
Exceptions to the requirement for employer payment would be safety-toe shoes; prescription safety eyewear; and boots required in the logging standard. OSHA is exempting those items because they are personal in nature and frequently worn off the job.
The proposal would revise OSHA's personal protective equipment standards covering workers in general industry, construction, marine terminals, shipyards, and longshoring. OSHA's intent is to make it clear that employers, rather than employees, must pay for the personal protective equipment required by OSHA standards.
Safety-toe footwear and prescription safety eyewear would be excepted from the proposed employer payment requirement if all three of the following conditions are met: (1) the employer permits such footwear or eyewear to be worn off the job-site; (2) the footwear or eyewear is not used at work in a manner that renders it unsafe for use off the job-site; and (3) such footwear or eyewear is not designed for special use on the job.
The projected shift in costs for personal protective equipment costs amount to no more than $61.9 million a year for the 800,000 employers who provide such equipment At the same time, there will be an estimated $288 million annually in direct cost savings as a result of avoiding injuries caused by not using or misusing personal protective equipment.
Many OSHA standards require employers to provide employees with personal protective equipment. However, some of the provisions do not specify that the employer is to pay for the equipment.
OSHA previously attempted to clarify who should pay for personal protective equipment in a memorandum to its field staff issued Oct.18, 1994, that said it was the employer's obligation to provide and pay for personal protective equipment except in limited situations. The independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, however, vacated a citation against an employer based on that memorandum (Secretary of Labor v. Union Tank Car, OSHRC no. 95-0563), contending that the policy was inadequately explained in light of earlier OSHA letters. Today's proposal would clarify the issue raised by that decision.
OSHA also is conducting a telephone survey of about 6,500 employers on their use of personal protective equipment and whether employers or workers currently pay for it. Results of that survey will be entered into the record for the rulemaking.
OSHA also will hold a public hearing on the proposal beginning at 9:30 a.m. on June 22, 1999, in the auditorium of the U.S. Department of Labor (Frances Perkins Building),
200 Constitution Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C., and is accepting written comments.
Written comments, notices of intention to appear at the public hearing, testimony, and documentary evidence must be submitted in duplicate to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket S-042, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210 telephone: 202-693-2350.
Commenters should identify the document as a comment, notice of intention to appear, testimony or documentary evidence. Comments of 10 pages or less may be faxed to the Docket Office at 202-693-1648. Comments must be postmarked by June 14, 1999 and notices of intention to appear must be postmarked by June 1, 1999.
Comments may also be submitted electronically through OSHA's Internet site at URL, httpp://www.osha-slc.gov/e-comments/e-comments-ppe.html. Information such as studies, journal articles, etc., cannot be attached to the electronic response and must be submitted in quadruplicate to the above address. Such attachments must identify the respondent's electronic submission by name, date, and subject, so they can be attached to the correct response.
Notice of the proposal is published in the March 31, 1999 issue of the Federal Register.###
(Editor's Note: See attached list of personal protective equipment required by OSHA standards.)
The text of this news release is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov.
Information on this news release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: 202-693-1999.
LIST OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
Personal fall arrest system
Pole climbing systems
Ladder safety device belts
Window cleaners' safety strap
Fire Fighting PPE
Face & eye protection
Protective coats and trousers
Face & eye protection
breathing apparatus (ESCBA)
Hand protection and arm protection
Gloves(disposable, fabric, leather mesh, aluminized, chemical resistance)
Sleeves made of rubber
reflective work vests
Ring life buoys
Encapsulating chemical protective suits
Flame resistant jacket and pants
Protective clothing for health related substances
Full body work clothing
Disposable paper clothing
WHY OSHA BELIEVES EMPLOYERS MUST PAY FOR PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
The Occupational Safety and Health Act obligates employers to pay for personal protective equipment. The act requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. This includes the financial obligation of employers to provide controls to address hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm to their employees.
Personal protective equipment is also a hazard control measure. Most standards require employers to implement engineering controls, such as ventilation, or administrative controls, such as regulated areas, to reduce hazardous exposures to employees and there has never been any doubt that employers must pay for these controls. Personal protective equipment is also a control measure often necessary to reduce exposures to health and safety hazards. The use of personal protective equipment is often necessary to supplement other control measures. In some circumstances, personal protective equipment is used as the primary means to protect employees.
Employers are in the best position to provide the correct type of protective equipment and keep it in repair. Employers are required to perform a hazard assessment of the workplace and to select the correct type of personal protective equipment to protect employees from the hazards identified in the hazard assessment. Employees may not always have the expertise to select the correct type of personal protective equipment, especially in situations where the use of personal protective equipment, such as fall protection equipment and respirators, may be complicated. Employers are in the best position to keep the personal protective equipment in repair. They are required by the personal protective equipment standard to maintain personal protective equipment in a sanitary and reliable condition. Thus, the employers can maintain better control over the inventory of personal protective equipment by periodically inspecting the equipment and repairing or replacing it, due to damage or wear and tear.
Requiring employees to pay for personal protective equipment may discourage their use of personal protective equipment. Employees may be discouraged from using necessary personal protective equipment if they are responsible for paying for the personal protective equipment and must find and buy the appropriate type of personal protective equipment on their own unpaid time.
Some states and existing standards already require employers to pay for personal protective equipment. Several states with OSHA-approved state occupational safety and health plans and many OSHA standards already require employers to pay for personal protective equipment. Requiring employer payment for personal protective equipment has been required in all OSHA health standards since 1997. The issue has been more ambiguously addressed in safety standards,. OSHA attempted to clear up this ambiguity in its 1994 memorandum to the field staff which stated that employer payment for personal protective equipment was generally required (with an exception for steel-toe safety footwear and prescription eyewear). State-plan states such as Alaska, Arizona, California, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina (general industry only) and Minnesota either require the employer to pay for all personal protective equipment or follow the practice outlined in federal OSHA's 1994 memorandum to the field.