Personal Protective Equipment

Employers Must Pay for PPE … Sometimes

On February 13, 2008, an OSHA rule took effect that requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees. Sounds simple enough, right? Hah!

As with any regulation covering such a broad and complex area, the “employer pays” PPE rule is rife with exceptions and clarifications. Our sister website,, took a crack at outlining some of the major provisions of the rule.

OSHA adopted the rule to clarify that under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), employers are responsible for providing—at no cost to their employees—the PPE required by OSHA standards to protect employees from workplace injury and death. The rule, which employers were required to implement no later than May 15, 2008, does not require them to provide PPE where none had been required before.

The PPE payment provisions apply to most private sector workplaces. Twenty-one states are approved by OSHA to administer their own safety and health rules for private sector workplaces, and an additional three states administer OSHA-approved regulatory programs for public sector workplaces only. Those states were required to adopt OSHA’s PPE final rule by mid-May 2008 or show that their existing rules are already at least as strict as the federal rule.

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Covered PPE

Employers must pay for PPE wherever an OSHA rule explicitly requires that employers must provide and pay for the PPE, such as for respiratory and noise protection.

Employers must pay for the following types of PPE when used by employees exclusively in the workplace (i.e., not for personal use at home or other nonworkplace activities). Here is a sampling of “employer pays” examples (you’ll find more at, and even that list is not exhaustive):

  • Electrical protection

    • Electrically insulated tools

    • Rubber insulating gloves

  • Chemical protection

    • Chemical resistant gloves/aprons/clothing

    • Encapsulating chemical protective suits

  • Foot protection

    • Metatarsal foot protection

    • Special boots for longshoremen working logs on logships

    • Rubber boots with steel toes

    • Shoe covers—toe caps and metatarsal guards

  • Eye and face protection

    • Nonprescription eye protection

    • Prescription eyewear inserts/lenses for full-face respirators

    • Prescription eyewear inserts/lenses for welding and diving helmets

    • Goggles

    • Face shields

    • Laser safety goggles

  • Head protection

    • Bump caps

    • Hard hats

  • Hearing protection

  • Hand/arm/body protection

    • Rubber sleeves

    • Aluminized gloves

    • Mesh cutproof gloves, mesh or leather aprons

    • Nonspecialty gloves (payment is required for PPE to protect from dermatitis, severe cuts/abrasions; payment is not required if they are only for keeping clean or for cold weather with no site-specific hazard consideration)

    • Reflective work vests

  • Respiratory protection

  • Skin protection

    • Barrier creams (unless used solely for weather-related protection)

  • Fall protection

    • Ladder safety device belts

    • Climbing ensembles used by linemen (e.g., belts and climbing hooks)

    • Window cleaner’s safety straps

  • Welding PPE

    • Face shields and goggles

    • Fire-resistant shirts, jackets, and sleeves

    • Leather gloves

Exempt PPE

Employers are not required to pay for the following clothes or items that are not worn by employees exclusively for protection from hazards:

  • Nonspecialty safety-toe protective footwear, provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the jobsite

    • Steel-toe shoes

    • Steel-toe boots

  • Nonspecialty prescription safety eyewear, provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the jobsite

  • Shoes or boots with built-in metatarsal protection that the employee chooses instead of metatarsal guards provided by the employer

  • Logging boots under the logging standard (29 CFR 1910.266(d))

  • Everyday clothing

    • Long-sleeved shirts

    • Long pants

    • Street shoes

    • Normal work boots

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  • Ordinary clothing and skin creams used solely for protection from the weather

    • Winter coats

    • Jackets

    • Gloves

    • Parkas

    • Rubber boots

    • Hats

    • Raincoats

    • Ordinary sunglasses

    • Sunscreen

  • Back belts

  • Dust masks and respirators worn under the voluntary-use provisions of the PPE standard

  • Items worn for product or consumer safety or patient safety and health rather than employee safety and health (for example, hairnets to prevent food contamination during preparation)

  • Uniforms that are not PPE

  • Items worn to keep clean for purposes not related to safety and health

  • PPE already owned and used voluntarily by the employee

  • Flame-resistant (FR) clothing for electrical work

PPE Selection

The new rule does not require employers to provide a selection of PPE from which employees may choose their equipment (other than the existing requirements in the respirator and noise standards).

Tomorrow we’ll look additional twists and turns in the new rule—including replacement, substitute, and employee-supplied PPE—and at the most important issue: How to train your employees in the proper selection, fit, use, and care of PPE.