OSHA Directive Informs Inspectors On Personal Protective Equipment Standards

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An enforcement directive issued Feb. 10 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides information on how to cite employers for violating rules requiring them to pay for their employees' personal protective equipment and rules updating the types of safety equipment required.

The directive on personal protective equipment replaces a previous version (STD 01-06-006) that did not account for recent rule changes. It provides instructions to OSHA inspectors in regional, area, and state plan offices.

A 2009 final rule revising the agency's personal protective equipment requirements based on national consensus standards (29 C.F.R. 1910, 1915, 1917, 1918) made changes to requirements for head protection, eye-and-face protective devices, foot protection, and other measures (39 OSHR 753, 9/10/09).

OSHA's 2007 final rule on employer payment for protective equipment (29 C.F.R. 1910, 1915, 1917, 1918, 1926) requires employers to cover the expense except in certain cases (37 OSHR 1007, 11/15/07).

The directive (CPL 02-01-050) took effect immediately and accounts for both of the rules, finalized in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

The directive also clarifies what types of equipment employers must provide at no cost; when employers must pay for the equipment or for its replacement; the payment requirements for equipment worn off the job site, that which must remain at the job site, and that which is employee-owned, among other issues. It includes updated policies that reflect decisions by federal courts and OSHA Review Commission.

Payment Requirements.

OSHA's employer payment standard went into effect on May 15, 2008, and, with some exceptions, covers employer obligations across all industries regulated by the agency.

Examples of equipment covered under the standard include respirators, rubber boots with steel toes, nonprescription eye protection, hearing protection, and personal fall protection devices, the directive said.

In addition, employers must pay for replacement equipment that is damaged. However, they are not required to pay for equipment upgrades requested by an employee that go beyond minimum OSHA standards, or for lost equipment, it added.

The directive also specifies that OSHA inspectors cannot cite an employer for both failing to pay for equipment and failing to provide the equipment.

Exceptions to the rule include non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear or eye-wear, if the employer allows the employee to wear it off the job site; ordinary clothing; and employee-owned equipment.

Updated Standards.

OSHA inspectors should verify employers comply with the latest updates to the agency's rules on protection of eyes and face, head, and feet, the directive said.

Those rules were recently revised by incorporating newer American National Standards Institute standards, which are referenced in the directive.

Examples of required eye protection under OSHA's standards include safety goggles, welding shields, and face shields.

Types of foot protection specified by the directive include toe guards, safety boots, electrical-hazard boots, and foundry shoes, it added.

By Greg Hellman

OSHA's enforcement directive is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=sbra-8e5t3e.

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