Summary of The Final Rule on Employer Paid PPE
New Ruling as of May 15, 2008
On May 15, 2008, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) had its Final Rule regarding Employer’s payments for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) implemented.

The Final Rules on Employer Paid PPE’s Background:

Workplace hazards can cause illness, injuries and death.  Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the safety equipment that is used to offer worker’s protection from these hazards.  There are various types of PPE that workers can use or wear to protect themselves and stay safe on the job. Before this new rule there were OSHA standards that required an employer to have their employees use PPE but did not obligate the employer to pay for the PPE. This Final Rule now makes the employer directly responsible for payment of their workforces PPE.  The bottom line is that this rule will improve protection for employees that must wear PPE.

Payment by Employer is Required For The Following PPE:
(This list is not all inclusive)

Eye Protection

Laser Safety Goggles
Face Shields
Non Prescription Eyewear
Prescription Eyewear Inserts/Lenses For Full Face Respirators
Prescription Eyewear Inserts/Lenses For Welding and Diving Helmets

Head Protection
Hard Hats
Bump Caps

Hand Protection
Non-Specialty Gloves Required For Protection From Cuts, Lacerations And Abrasions
Rubber Sleeves
Aluminized Gloves
Chemical Resistant Gloves
Rubber Insulating Gloves
Mesh, Cut proof Gloves

Foot Protection
Metatarsal Foot Protection
Rubber Boots With Steel Toes
Shoe Covers-Toe Caps And Metatarsal Guards
Special Boots For Longshoremen Working Logs 

Hearing Protection
Ear Plugs
Ear Muffs

Fall Protection
Window Cleaners Safety Straps
Belts and Climbing Hooks Used By Linemen
Ladder Safety Device Belts

Safety Clothing
Reflective Work Vests
Encapsulating Chemical Protective Suits
Life Jackets
Chemical Resistant Aprons And Clothing
Mesh or Leather Aprons

Medical Laboratory PPE to Protect From Exposure to Infectious Agents
Lab Coats
Disposable Gloves
Shoe Covers 

Respiratory Protection
Face Masks
SCBA, Atmosphere-Supplying Respirators Used For Escape

An Employer is NOT Required to Pay For The Following Items
(This list is not all inclusive)

  • Non specialty safety toe protective footwear 
  • Prescription safety eyewear (except when special use lenses must be used inside a respirator facepiece -  employers must pay for the lenses-inserts) 
  • Lineman boots 
  • Logging boots that are required under SEC 1910.266 (d)(1)(v) 
  • Everyday clothing such as long pants and long sleeve shirts 
  • Everyday work boots and work shoes 
  • Dust mask/respirators that are under voluntary use provisions in SEC 1910. 134 
  • Back belts 
  • Normal everyday rainwear

Replacement PPE

Under the Final Rule, replacement PPE due to normal wear and tear is the responsibility of the Employer.  The only time that this responsibility would fall on the employee would be when the PPE is lost or damaged intentionally by the employee. Accidental damage is the employer’s responsibility.  An employer should have policies and guidelines in place for situations that can fall into a grey area regarding lost or intentionally damaged PPE.  It is the employer’s decision how to deal with employees that have lost or caused damage to company owned PPE. OSHA concludes that employers have the right to implement disciplinary procedures into their jobsite in order to endorse compliance with safety and health requirements. 

For example consider these scenarios to help in determining policies and guidelines for your workplace.  Of course, in your assessment, each employer can probably come up with many more.  That is what has to be done in order to eradicate the grey areas and be able to have firm policies that can be followed.

Scenario 1:

An employee leaves his work gloves on a piece of equipment and walks away and comes back to find his gloves missing.  This employee would have the responsibility to replace the glove because it was the employee’s fault that they were lost. OSHA does not require employers to replace PPE that has been lost by an employee.

Scenario 2:

In this example, an employee reaches out his hand by a piece of heavy equipment and his glove gets caught and is pulled off and drops down behind the equipment not to be found.   As long as the employee was not negligent, this glove would be considered lost in a situation beyond the employee’s control. The replacement of this glove would be the responsibility of the employer.

Scenario 3:

An employer allows an employee to bring the employer provided PPE home with him.  Upon return to work the next day, the employee does not have the PPE.  The PPE can be considered lost and it is not the employer’s responsibility to replace it.

Service Life of PPE

The service life of PPE has to be taken into account when determining the time period in which it should be replaced.  Employers need to consider different variables when they are determining the service life of PPE at their jobsite or plant.  Following are several factors that come into play:

1.      Manufacturer’s recommendations
2.      The working conditions of the workplace
3.      How the PPE is used on the jobsite
4.      Past assessment of workplace incidents that have caused damage and misuse of PPE

Up-graded and Personalized PPE

An employer is not required to provide or pay for upgraded or personalized PPE at an employee’s request.  The employer is only required to pay for adequate basic PPE for their employees.

 If an employer allows an employee to purchase up-graded or personalized PPE paid for by the employee, the employer is only required to make sure that the PPE adequately meets their specifications for PPE at their jobsite or plant. 

Payment Methods

As long as PPE is provided to employees at NO cost, employer’s can use any method of payment that works for them. Following are some popular methods that are in use today: 

Employer Purchase: This method is a popular method of payment, whereby an employer purchases the PPE for their workers.  They keep a steady supply which can be conveniently distributed to the workers.

  • Pros
    • Ensures that all PPE meets the specifications that the employer requires for his/her worksite.
    • Ensures the quality of PPE purchased
    • Immediate replacement is almost always available for lost or damaged items
    • Employers can purchase in bulk and therefore receive discounts from suppliers. 

Employee Allowances: When using this method, an employer gives an employee an “allowance” to purchase specific PPE.

  • Pros
    • Convenient way to purchase PPE but it might add the extra burden to the employer of checking each item that is purchased to make sure that it is considered adequate and in compliance with the companies guidelines. A simple solution to this problem would be to set up a purchasing agreement with a reliable and approved vendor that employee’s can purchase from.

Voucher System: This method allows for an arrangement with a specific vendor.  The supplier will accept a voucher from the employer instead of direct payment.  After the supplier processes the voucher, the employer will be billed.   This can be done on a monthly basis or some sort of payment schedule that can keep administrative costs down and convenience up for all involved.

Employer Reimbursement: This method requires the employee to purchase their own PPE and the employer reimburses them.  As with some of the other methods, the employer could do this on their own time which has raised the question of travel expense reimbursement for the employee.  OSHA has concluded that the employer is not required to pay for an employee’s travel expenses related to traveling to and from a retail outlet.  A simple solution to this is having employees purchase their PPE from a reliable and approved internet distributor or retailer.

Types of Employees That Fall Under This Ruling

These requirements are for “all” types of employees.  Some industries that rely heavily on PPE will sometimes have short term employees.  This is common in the construction industry.  This final rule applies to short term employees including full time, part time and seasonal employees. It does NOT include Independent Contractors that do not have an “employee/employer relationship.

We have tried to summarize OSHA final ruling on PPE for our customers.  You can read the entire ruling here for more specific questions that you might have.

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