Revision 6/08 Employer-Paid PPE

In November 2007, OSHA issued its final rule on employer-paid personal protective equipment. Under the rule, all PPE, with few exceptions, must be provided at no cost to employees. According to OSHA, employers currently pay for 95 percent of employee PPE. But, when employees are responsible to pay for their own PPE, they:
  • Are likely to purchase the wrong equipment,
  • May use the PPE beyond its expected service life, or
  • May avoid purchasing the equipment at all.
When employers pay for PPE, they are more likely to select the right PPE for the hazards present in their workplaces. OSHA has also found that when employers pay for PPE, they make sure the equipment is maintained and replaced as necessary, and generally take more responsibility for PPE selection and use.

Revision 6/08 Who’s covered?

The new rule, which OSHA first proposed in March 1999, affects most of the agency’s PPE standards, including Parts:
  • 1910 General Industry,
  • 1926 Construction,
  • 1915 Shipyards,
  • 1917 Marine terminals, and
  • 1918 Longshoring.
The regulatory text is almost the same for each of the industries. There are only small changes from one industry to the next. For example, the exception for logging boots in the general industry standard is not found in the construction or shipyard standards.

Revision 6/08 What’s covered?

The rule adds a new paragraph, §1910.132(h), to the General Requirements section of the Personal Protective Equipment rule. It addresses only the issue of who pays for PPE. It does not require employers to provide PPE where none has been required before, such as payment for uniforms, caps, or other clothing worn solely to identify a person as an employee.
Additionally, it does not require payment for items worn:
  • To keep employees clean for purposes unrelated to safety or health such as blue jeans, aprons or other apparel, when worn solely to prevent clothing and/or skin from becoming soiled; and
  • For product safety, consumer safety, or patient safety and health, rather than employee safety and health such as requiring food service employees to wear hairnets for food safety purposes.
The following information describes the employer’s responsibilities for paying for personal protective equipment used in the workplace.

Revision 6/08 Pay for required PPE: 1910.132(h)(1)

Payment is required for any PPE used by an employee to comply with any one of the PPE requirements throughout OSHA’s standards. If the PPE is not required, then the employer doesn’t have to pay for it. When an employer selects a specific type of PPE to be used at the workplace to comply with a standard, the employer is required to pay for it.

Revision 6/08 Safety shoes and glasses: 1910.132(h)(2)

The employer is not required to pay for non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or steel-toe boots) and non-specialty prescription safety eyewear, provided that the employer permits these items to be worn off the worksite.
If the employer requires employees to keep non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear and non-specialty prescription safety eyewear at the workplace, the employer must pay for the items.
In cases where safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or steel-toe boots) and prescription safety eyewear are non-standard “specialty” items, the employer must pay for them. For example, prescription eyeglass inserts for full-facepiece respirators and non-skid shoes for floor strippers are specialty items, so payment will be required.

Revision 6/08 Metatarsal protection: 1910.132(h)(3)

OSHA allows employers to use metatarsal guards or footwear with built-in metatarsal protection when metatarsal protection is needed in the workplace. If the employer requiresemployees to wear metatarsal shoes or boots, the employer has to pay for the footwear.
However, when the employer provides metatarsal guards and allows the employee, at his or her request, to use shoes or boots with built-in metatarsal protection, the employer is not required to pay for the metatarsal shoes or boots.
Employers may contribute to the cost of metatarsal shoes or boots. Some employers currently offer their employees a choice between using a metatarsal guard provided and paid for by the employer or a metatarsal shoe or boot with some portion of the cost of the shoe or boot paid for by the employer, essentially establishing an allowance system. OSHA believes this to be an acceptable practice.

Revision 6/08 Logging boots and everyday clothing: 1910.132(h)(4)

OSHA does not require the employer to pay for the logging boots required by §1910.266(d)(1)(v). The logging standard exempts these boots and subparagraph (h)(4) reflects that exemption.
Employers are not required to pay for everyday clothing, such as long-sleeve shirts, long pants, street shoes, and normal work boots. This exception applies even when the employer requires employees to use these items, and the clothing provides protection from a workplace hazard.
Similarly, employers are not required to pay for ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items used solely for protection from weather, such as:
  • Winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas;
  • Rubber boots, hats, raincoats; and
  • Ordinary sunglasses and sunscreen.
If ordinary weather gear does not provide sufficient protection and special equipment or extraordinary clothing is needed to protect the employee from unusually severe weather conditions, the employer is required to pay for the protection.
Clothing used to protect employees from artificial heat or cold is not part of this exception. For example, employees working in a freezer warehouse may need heavy coats and the employer is required to pay for this protection.

Revision 6/08 Replacement PPE: 1910.132(h)(5)

Employers must pay for replacement PPE, except when the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE. The new rule does not address how often PPE is to be replaced. Replacement is determined by each standard that requires the PPE.

Revision 6/08 Employee-owned equipment: 1910.132(h)(6)

Where an employee provides adequate protective equipment which he or she owns and brings to the worksite, the employer may allow the employee to use it and is not required to reimburse the employee for that equipment. However, the employer may not require an employee to provide or pay for his or her own PPE, unless there is an exception in the rule.

Revision 6/08 Tools of trade

In some industries, employees traditionally supply their own PPE, especially when the employees frequently move from job to job. This part of the rule recognizes these traditions and does not require employers to pay for PPE in this situation. However:
  • The employee’s use of his or her own PPE must be completely voluntary.
  • The employee can withdraw use of his or her own PPE at any time.
  • If the employer allows an employee to use PPE they already own, the employer is still responsible for making sure the PPE is adequate, properly maintained, and sanitary, under the applicable PPE standard.

Revision 6/08 Enforcement deadline: 1910.132(h)(7)

The last provision in the rule provides an enforcement deadline for employers to change their existing PPE payment policies. The rule went into effect on February 13, 2008 and the PPE payment requirements must be implemented no later than May 15, 2008.

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