Personal Protective Equipment

Understanding the ‘Employer Pays’ PPE Rule

Yesterday’s Advisor examined some of the exceptions and loopholes in the seemingly simple “employer pays” rule for personal protective equipment (PPE). Today we look at some of the other gray areas of the recent rule.

As of May 15, 2008, employers were required to comply with an OSHA final rule requiring them to provide—at no cost to their employees—the PPE required by OSHA standards to protect employees from workplace injury and death.

PPE Replacement

According to an analysis on our sister website,, the rule also mandates that employers pay to replace PPE on a regular basis. This duty is considered part of the employer’s obligation to ensure that PPE is in good condition. The only exception to the PPE replacement rule is when an employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE. Employers are urged to develop a policy for determining whether the loss of PPE was due to negligence or uncontrollable circumstances.

Looking to improve PPE use compliance? BLR’s Total Training Resource: PPE on CD brings a new approach. Try it at no cost or risk. Get more information.

A worker’s request for more expensive PPE to replace ill-fitting PPE or substitute for PPE made of material that causes an allergic reaction in the worker should be judged on safety and health grounds, not on an aesthetic basis. To the extent that an employee’s preference is consistent with these OSHA requirements, OSHA believes the employer should accommodate any added cost.

The new rule does not require employers to provide and pay for replacement PPE whenever requested by an employee. OSHA recommends that each employer establish a policy concerning what will constitute normal wear and tear (expected service life), a “lost” PPE item, how to safeguard against PPE abuse and negligence, and for allowing (or disallowing) employees to use PPE for personal activities that are not work related.

Employee-Supplied PPE

When an employee voluntarily purchases and wears his or her own PPE and is allowed to use it at the workplace, the employer is not required to reimburse the employee for that equipment. For example, newly hired workers sometimes report to the workplace with PPE that they own, especially in workplaces that use short-term labor. In such cases, the employer is not required to reimburse the employee for using his or her own PPE.

Monitoring Compliance

The final rule does not require employers to maintain receipts or any other form of paperwork involving PPE payment. In most instances, an OSHA inspector will interview employers and employees to determine if an employer is complying with the PPE payment rule.

The lack of required paperwork seems almost casual in light of how zealously OSHA enforces its PPE requirements. OSHA requires each employer to assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, and necessitate the use of PPE. Every job in the workplace must be evaluated. The employer must certify in writing that the PPE hazard assessment has been performed.

In addition, all employees required to wear PPE must be trained when and how to use it and demonstrate its use before performing work requiring the use of PPE. Employees are prohibited from performing work requiring PPE until they demonstrate “an understanding” of what was learned “and the ability to use PPE properly.” Written certification must name each employee who meets those criteria. If employees don’t meet these criteria—or if changes in operations or PPE make the previous training out of date—employers must provide retraining.

A Training Solution

BLR’s Total Training Resource: PPE has proven to be a particularly effective tool for meeting these training requirements. The key? Appealing to workers’ emotions.

As they take a self-directed and self-paced journey through 88 narrated slides, trainees are asked to imagine what it would be like to suffer the consequences of unsafe behavior. They’re asked to think about how an accident might affect their families. They’re asked to remember how their bare hands felt after contact with strong cleaning agents or how their hearing was muffled after exposure to loud sounds.

The message is enhanced by a second tool adopted from learning experts: interactivity. Each slide includes some form of action. Full-color photos and copy move on the screen. Trainees drag and drop material in answer to questions. In an exercise on donning and doffing safety gear, trainees actually dress and remove the parts of a Level 3 protective suit to learn the correct order in doing so.

Try BLR’s Total Training Resource: PPE on CD at no cost or risk. Get the details.

The specific types of PPE covered are those for:

  • Eye protection

  • Hearing protection

  • Hand and body protection

  • Foot protection

  • Respiratory safety

  • Head protection

  • Electrical safety

The CD also contains a full catalog of reproducible supplementary materials, from training sign-up sheet, to quiz, to trainee completion certificate, and for group use, a bonus 28-slide PowerPoint® on PPE selection and use.

Safety Daily Advisor has arranged for its subscribers to evaluate the program for up to 30 days at no cost or risk. Just let us know and we’ll set things up.