OSHA PPE Rules Answered
Who pays for PPE? The employer or the employee?
Since 2004, Lancaster Safety consultants have conducted nearly 12,000 OSHA-compliance training sessions with companies in all fifty states. In virtually every one of those training sessions, one question arises more frequently than any other.
Who Pays for Safety Gear?
Is the employer responsible for providing pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE)? Or is the employee?
OSHA has a 48-page guide that provides guidance to employers for evaluating PPE needs. It addresses the proper selection, maintanance, and training necessary to protect employees from a variety of hazards. While the actual assessment and evaluation of PPE can be complicated and complex, when it comes to the payment question, it’s very simple.
The employer, not the employee, is required to pay for the PPE needed to comply with OSHA standards.
This is true in almost all cases OSHA calls for PPE.
Examples of PPE include the following categories:
- Head protection, like hard hats and other caps that protect the employees’ heads in cases like falling objects, slips, and falls.
- Eye protection, such as safety glasses, eye goggles, face shields, and welding helmets. These items are used to protect the employees’ eyes from debris, particles, and splashing liquids.
- Hearing protection, such as earmuffs and earplugs, used to protect against high noise levels.
- Hand protection, such as canvas gloves, leather gloves, latex gloves, and rubber gloves. These protect the hands from hazardous chemicals and unhygienic materials like bodily fluids.
- Foot protection, such as work boots and slip-resistant footwear. These are often used to protect feet from objects and accidents.
- Respiratory protection, such as dust masks, air-purifying respirators, and supplied air respirators. OSHA regulations vary depending on the type and concentration of environmental hazard and the length of exposure.
- Fall protection, such as fall arrest harnesses, lanyards, self-retracting lifelines, and any other equipment used to protect employees from falls or prevent falls when working at heights.
- Skin protection, including aprons, coveralls, and long-sleeved clothing used in various conditions to protect skin from chemicals, burns, and cuts and lacerations.
If it’s required by OSHA, the employer is usually on the hook for paying for these items and also ensuring they meet OSHA standards. Employers usually cannot require workers to provide their own PPE.
Employers are also responsible for assessing the workplace to determine what hazards necessitate the use of which PPE. For all hazards, the employer must select and have each affected employee use PPE to protect themselves. The employee must also communicate these PPE selections to each employee and ensure the required equipment properly fits each employee.
Employee Owned PPE
There are a few caveats and exceptions to the employer’s requirement to pay for PPE. If any employee uses a piece of PPE they already own, it must be entirely voluntary. When employees provide their own PPE, the employer is still responsible for ensuring it’s adequate, including overseeing its maintenance and sanitation.
Safety-toe protective footwear and prescription safety glasses were exempted from the employer payment requirement, because those items are personal in nature, not commonly shared and worn off the jobsite.
When an Employee Damages or Loses PPE
If the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE, the employer can require the employee to pay to replace it.
Employers Only Need to Pay for Required PPE
If a piece of equipment is used for safety but goes beyond OSHA requirements, the employer is usually not required to pay for it. Employers are also not required to pay for everyday clothing that’s worn on the job site, even if it has a safety value (i.e. logging boots).
Conduct Regular Hazard Assessments
One more consideration about PPE: It’s recommended that the hazard assessment, which determines what PPE is required for a job, be reviewed and updated. This should be at least once a year or whenever new processes or new potential hazards are introduced to the workplace, or when an employer buys new types of PPE.
If you’re unsure of what personal protective equipment is needed at your workplace, have a Lancaster Safety Consultant come onsite to help you out!