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OSHA Unveils Final Rule on Employer Paid Personal Protective Equipment

  • November 21, 2007

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor ("OSHA") announced the publication in the Federal Register of a final rule on Employer paid personal protective equipment ("PPE"). The rule, published November 15, 2007, requires Employers to pay for any PPE used by an Employer to comply with the PPE requirements in OSHA's standards. If PPE is not required by the standards, the Employer is not required to pay. When an Employer selects a specific type of PPE to be used at the workplace to comply with an OSHA standard, the Employer is required to pay for that PPE. The standard requires Employers to pay for employee PPE such as lifelines, lanyards, face shields and protective clothing. While the rule takes effect February 13, 2008, Employers are given until May 15, 2008, to fully implement the PPE pay requirements.

The final rule contains exceptions for certain ordinary protective equipment such as safety-toe footwear, prescription safety eyewear, everyday clothing and weather related gear and logging boots. Employees can still be required to pay for these types of PPE, if (with the exception of logging boots) they are permitted to wear it away from work.

If employees choose to use PPE they own, Employers will not need to reimburse the employees for the PPE. However, the standard provides that Employers may not require employees to provide their own PPE and an employee's use of PPE he or she already owns must be completely voluntary. Even where an employee provides his or her own PPE, the Employer must ensure that the equipment is adequate to protect employees from workplace hazards.

The standard generally requires employers to pay for replacement PPE. However, should an employee lose or intentionally damage his or her PPE issued and paid for by the Company, the Employer is not required to pay for its replacement under the rule.

According to OSHA, the rule's enactment likely will reduce workplace injury, illness and death by an estimated 21,000 instances per year.

Employers are urged to revise existing PPE payment policies and to comply with the final rule before enforcement begins next May. A copy of the full standard can be found at: the Federal Register Online.

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