OSHA Issues Final Rule. Who Pays For Personal Protective Equipment?

          OSHA has finally issued the Final Rule on employer payment for personal protective equipment (PPE).  Nine years have passed since the rule was first proposed, and it took a lawsuit by unions and Congressional intervention before the Bush Administration would act.    It was only issued after a lawsuit by the AFL-CIO and its International Unions and the UFCW.  Both the litigation and the FY 2008 Labor-HHS funding bill set a deadline of November 30, 2007 for final action by OSHA.

          The rule is a basic requirement that codifies OSHA’s long-standing policy that it is the employer’s responsibility to pay the cost of protecting workers from safety and health hazards.  The rule makes clear that employers must pay for hard hats, goggles, face shields, chemical resistant suits, and other required safety equipment.  It does, however, include some exemptions from the employer payment requirements.

          During the rulemaking the AFL-CIO and its International Unions had taken the position that the employer should be required to provide and pay for all PPE with no exceptions.  The final rule does not do so, but seems to be similar to the proposed rule and what had been OSHA’s policy.

These exceptions are:

  • Non-specialty safety-toe footwear and non-specialty prescription safety eyewear that the employer permits to be worn off the job;
  • When the employer provides metasarsal guards, the employer is not required to pay for shoes or boots with built in metasarsal protection;
  • Logging boots required by the logging standard;
  • Everyday clothing, such as long sleeve shirts, pants etc;
  • Ordinary clothing used to protect against the weather;
  • Replacement PPE where the employee has lost or intentional damaged the PPE;
  • Equipment not required by OSHA Standard that an employee owns and is permitted by the employer to use.  However, the employer may not require an employee to provide or pay for PPE.

          This rule as with all OSHA standards, is the minimum requirement for employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace.  The interpretation by OSHA compliance officers was long considered required to be provided (paid for) by the employer.  As with this rule interpretation and or application can change as it did with this administration.  The best policy for protection of our members and PPE is strong contract language, specific to the work we perform and the worksite we represent.

The rule was published in the November 15, 2007 Federal Register and can be found at:
http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20071800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/pdf/07-5608.pdf

OSHA’s News Release can be found at:
http://osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=20094

An OSHA fact sheet on the rule, press release and statement can be found at:
http://www.osha.gov/Publications/PPE-factsheet-final.pdf

Call in Press Conference by Edwin G. Foulk Jr. Assistant Secretary of Labor OSHA can be found at:
http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=SPEECHES&p_id=1223