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New OSHA Rule on Personal Protective Equipment

On November 14, 2007, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule on employer-paid personal protective equipment (PPE). Under the rule, all PPE, with a few exceptions, must be provided at no cost to the employee.

The rule does not require that employers pay for employee uniforms or other items that do not meet the definition of PPE. The final rule contains a few exceptions for ordinary safety-toed footwear, ordinary prescription safety eyewear, weather-related clothing, and logging boots.

The final rule also clarifies OSHA's requirements regarding payment for employee-owned PPE and replacement PPE. If employees use PPE that they own, employers are not required to reimburse them for the PPE. In such cases, however, employers must ensure that the equipment is sufficient to protect employees from workplace hazards. Employers may not require employees to pay for replacement PPE that is used to comply with OSHA standards.

If an employee loses or intentionally damages their PPE, an employer is not required to pay for its replacement. Employers can discipline employees for losing or abusing safety equipment. The employer still must ensure that its employees use adequate PPE.

The final rule provides an enforcement deadline of six (6) months from the date of publication to allow employers time to change their existing PPE payment policies to accommodate the final rule. Employers wishing to review OSHA's final rule may do so HERE.

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