Personal Protective Equipment

PPE: OSHA Rules You Have to Pay. But …

OSHA now has ruled that employers must pay for virtually all PPE. Too bad a new survey says many workers refuse to use it.

As you may have heard, after years of dithering about it, OSHA finally decreed on February 13 that employers must pay for their workers’ personal protective equipment.

While many organizations have paid for things like disposable gloves, goggles, and earplugs for years, industry groups have maintained that this could represent a significant new expense for some smaller businesses. Now imagine how those employers feel when they learn that a new survey says the PPE they now must pay for is something many workers refuse to use.

Let’s take these two dissonant bits of news in turn.


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The new regulation specifies, according to the law firm K&L Gates, LLC, that employers “do not need to provide any additional PPE not required under existing regulations, but only that the required PPE be provided by employers at no cost to employees.” Employers must also provide replacement PPE at their expense, unless the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the original.

Employees who provide their own PPE can continue to do so, in which case, employers are off the hook for the expense. Employers also generally will not have to pay for:

  • Nonspecialty safety toe protective footwear or nonspecialty prescription eyewear, as long as the worker can wear them off premises
  • Protective footwear with built-in metatarsal guards, if the worker prefers it to employer-provided separate guards
  • Ordinary clothing and work boots, including logging boots, as well as any other ordinary items, primarily used for protection from the weather
  • Employee PPE Noncompliance a “top workplace concern”

    The study that showed that workers do not want to wear the PPE was done at the last National Safety Council Congress. Kimberly-Clark (K-C), which makes a number of industrial hygiene products, has done the study for several years. Some 197 safety professionals at NSCC took part this time around.


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    No less than 87 percent had personally observed employees not wearing or using their PPE when they were required to do so, the second year such a result was recorded. In fact, the result had gone up from 85 percent the previous year, leading to K-C’s labeling noncompliance with PPE regulations as a “top workplace concern.”

    “Despite the undisputed need for PPE when undertaking hazardous tasks,” people continue to risk bodily harm by failing to protect themselves,” noted Randy Kates, who manages the safety business for K-C.

    Interesting is that the survey delved deeper into precisely why employees would willingly deny themselves protection from harm. The findings were fascinating. We’ll look at them, and also a program that might just be able to overcome the objections, in tomorrow’s Safety Daily Advisor.

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