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Regulations (Preambles to Final Rules) - Table of Contents
• Record Type: Personal Protective Equipment for General Industry
• Section: 1
• Title: Section 1 - I. Background

I. Background

The existing OSHA standards for personal protective equipment (PPE) are contained in Subpart I of OSHA's general industry standards. These standards were adopted in 1971 from established Federal standards and national consensus standards.

In developing a proposed revision of Subpart I, the Agency performed a comprehensive review of the PPE standards. This review revealed several limitations and concerns with respect to these standards. First, OSHA determined that many of the existing PPE standards were outdated since they reflected knowledge and practices regarding PPE as they existed in the late 1960's and early 1970's. This meant that employers were being required to explain how compliance with more recent editions of the pertinent consensus standards provides equivalent protection to that provided by the older editions in the OSHA standards.

Second, the Agency determined that there were certain gaps in coverage of the PPE standards, and that the standards set very restrictive design criteria which might limit the use of new technology. OSHA was concerned that restraints on innovation might also make it more difficult for employers either to increase acceptance of PPE, or to provide more protective PPE. Recognizing this situation, the Agency established a process under which OSHA has accepted, for example, on a case-by-case basis, the use of eye protection which, while not designed to meet the specifications in the existing standards, had been demonstrated to provide equivalent or superior worker protection. The Agency determined, however, that this process could not keep pace with the development of improved PPE. Consequently, OSHA was concerned that, unless the PPE standards were revised to be more performance-oriented, employers and product manufacturers might be discouraged from improving their equipment and from providing improved protection to workers.

Also, OSHA had obtained injury data and technical reports which showed that injuries were occurring to employees who were wearing PPE as well as to those employees who were not wearing PPE. This indicated that, in some cases, significant improvements in PPE design and acceptance might be needed.

Based on these concerns, OSHA developed a proposed revision to its PPE standards. The proposed revision was published in the Federal Register as a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on August 16, 1989 (54 FR 33832). OSHA proposed to revise the safety standards for eye and face protection (1910.133); head protection (1910.135); and foot protection (1910.136) by referencing the latest editions of the corresponding standards published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The provisions of existing 1910.134 and 1910.137 (which cover respiratory protection and electrical protective devices, respectively) are the subjects of separate rulemaking actions and are not addressed by this rulemaking.

OSHA also proposed to revise the "general requirements" for PPE (1910.132) by adding provisions that: (1) require employers to select appropriate PPE based on the hazards present and to assure that employees who obtain their own PPE follow the employers' selection decisions; (2) prohibit the use of defective or damaged PPE; and (3) require that employees be trained in the proper use of their PPE.

The NPRM set a period, that ended on October 16, 1990, during which interested persons could comment on the proposal and request a hearing. OSHA received 129 comments in response to the proposal (Exhibit 3). The Agency also received several requests for an informal public hearing to discuss and clarify some of the requirements in the proposal, and to discuss and comment on issues and concerns raised as a result of the proposal. Accordingly, OSHA published a hearing notice on February 1, 1990 (55 FR 3412). The hearing notice requested testimony and supporting information on the following issues: (1) Marking of eye and face protection; (2) Third party certification; (3) The use of photochromic lenses; (4) Training in the proper use of PPE; and (5) The need for additional regulation of PPE (such as gloves, chemical protective clothing, and bump caps). The hearing notice (55 FR 3412) also extended the comment period until March 20, 1990.

Hearings on the proposed standard were held in Washington, D.C., on April 3 and 4, 1990, with Administrative Law Judge Sheldon R. Lipson presiding. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Lipson set July 13, 1990, as the deadline for submission of post hearing comments and evidence, and September 11, 1990, as the deadline for submission of summations and briefs. On November 9, 1990, Judge Lipson certified the hearing record, including the hearing transcript and all written submissions to the docket.

The rulemaking record contains 173 comments, 577 pages of testimony, and 53 exhibits.

[59 FR 16334, April 6, 1994]

Regulations (Preambles to Final Rules) - Table of Contents

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