A new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) final rule clarifies the requirement that employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) at no charge to employees. The standard, effective May 15, 2008, applies to general industry (shop) and construction settings.
While creating no new obligations for employers to provide PPE, the rule specifies when the employer must pay for PPE and lists the narrow exceptions. Under the new rule, employers are required to pay for the minimum PPE that meets applicable certifications and OSHA standards, and is appropriate to the hazards. The employer, however, does not have to pay for “upgraded” PPE requested by the employee, “everyday clothing” and weather-related gear not considered PPE.
For example, employers must pay for PPE typically used in the sheet metal industry including cut resistant gloves, hearing protection, and welding helmets. However, the employer is not required to pay for PPE that employees may take home or wear off the job site such as safety-toed footwear or prescription safety eyewear. In addition, employers do not have to pay for items employees already own. These include personal safety items such as personal welding helmets or boots with built-in metatarsal protection.
Furthermore, the rule states that the employer is not responsible to pay for replacement of any PPE that is lost or intentionally damaged.
Effect on Collective Bargaining Agreements
The rule may impose obligations upon employers that conflict with the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement concerning the furnishing of protective equipment. After reviewing the rule carefully, OSHA determined that workplaces with collective bargaining agreements should be treated no differently in the final rule than workplaces without collective bargaining agreements. Consequently, employers must comply with the rule even if it imposes obligations that go beyond what has been collectively bargained. None of OSHA’s past rules on PPE coverage have been overturned because they inappropriately interfered with collective bargaining.
For more information on the safety and health implications of the standard, contact Mike McCullion, safety and health director, at (703) 995-4027 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on collective bargaining agreements, contact Jason Watson, assistant director of labor relations, at (703) 803-2981, or email@example.com.