Use OSHA’s Compliance Directive to Evaluate your PPE Program

Use OSHA’s Compliance Directive to Evaluate your PPE Program

You invest a lot of time, effort and money in your personal protective equipment (PPE) program, so you want to be sure you’re meeting OSHA’s expectations.

OSHA’s PPE compliance directive, 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart I, Enforcement Guidance for Personal Protective Equipment in General Industry (CPL 02-01-050), establishes OSHA’s general enforcement and guidance policy for its PPE standards. It instructs OSHA enforcement personnel on both the agency’s interpretations of those standards and the procedures for enforcing them. You can review the directive for insight on how compliance officers will evaluate your PPE program.

OSHA recognized that recent changes to PPE rules needed clarification to ensure that its enforcement efforts were consistent.

OSHA published a revision to the general PPE requirements at §1910.132 in the April 6, 1994, Federal Register. This revision:

➤ Required employers to select appropriate PPE based on the hazards present or likely to be present in the workplace,

➤ Prohibited the use of defective or damaged PPE and

➤ Established employee training requirements.

This action was followed on Nov. 15, 2007, with the publication of the final rule for employer payment for PPE. A revision in the Sept. 9, 2009, Federal Register updated references to applicable national consensus standards to recognize more recent editions of the standards. On June 8, 2011, OSHA removed the written training certification requirements.

The PPE directive, CPL 02-01-050, took effect on Feb. 10, 2011.

Hazard Assessment

OSHA compliance safety and health officers (CSHO) will ask to see your written certification that a hazard assessment has been conducted and will issue a citation for a violation of §1910.132(d)(2) if there is no written certification. Appendix B of 29 CFR Part 29 Subpart I provides guidance on how to conduct the hazard assessment.

You can rely on a hazard assessment conducted by a previous employer provided that the job conditions and hazards have not substantially changed. If you rely on a previously conducted hazard assessment, the certification must contain the date you determined it was adequate, rather than the date of the actual assessment.

Citations for violations of the hazard assessment requirements at §1910.132(d)(1) will pertain only to eye and face, head, foot and hand protection. The directive clarifies that if another OSHA standard has more specific assessment and selection provisions, then CSHOs will issue citations for violations of the more specific standard. For example, there are PPE hazard assessment and selection requirements in the standards for respiratory protection, permit-required confined spaces, hazardous waste operations and emergency response and bloodborne pathogens.

PPE Selection, Fit and Use

The Sept. 9, 2009, revisions to the PPE standards adopted more recent editions of applicable national consensus standards. The directive instructs CSHOs to cite the standards for the use of eye and face protective devices (§1910.133(b)), head protection (§1910.135(b)) and foot protection (§1910.136(b)) if the PPE selected and provided by the employer doesn’t meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or ASTM International (ASTM) standards incorporated by reference in those standards.

However, a citation won’t be issued if the employer demonstrates that a piece of equipment is as effective as that which complies with the incorporated standard. In the preamble to the Sept. 9, 2009, final rule, OSHA stated that this provision for equivalent protection “allows employers to use subsequent national consensus standards that they can demonstrate provide the requisite level of employee protection.” And in the preamble to the proposed rule published on May 17, 2007, OSHA stated: “OSHA has examined the standards for eye and face, head and foot PPE issued by ANSI and ASTM International (ASTM) over the last 40 years. OSHA has found that these standards reflect the state of the art in terms of design safety that existed at the time they were issued. Furthermore, each successive edition of these standards has improved the design features of the PPE.”

Make sure PPE fits properly. You can be cited for a violation of §1910.132(d)(1)(iii) if your PPE doesn’t properly fit each affected employee. Appendix B of 29 CFR Part 29 Subpart I provides non-mandatory guidance for determining and achieving the proper fit. The appendix includes the following:

“5. Fitting the device. Careful consideration must be given to comfort and fit. PPE that fits poorly will not afford the necessary protection. Continued wearing of the device is more likely if it fits the wearer comfortably. Protective devices are generally available in a variety of sizes. Care should be taken to ensure that the right size is selected.

“6. Devices with adjustable features. Adjustments should be made on an individual basis for a comfortable fit that will maintain the protective device in the proper position.”

The key to avoiding a citation for allowing the use of defective or damaged PPE (a violation of §1910.132(e)) is to ensure that, in its present condition, the PPE provides the protection it was designed to provide. When PPE is required, you can allow an employee to voluntarily use PPE that he already owns, but you remain responsible for ensuring that this PPE is not defective or damaged.

If you fail to communicate your PPE selection decisions to each affected employee or fail to conduct PPE demonstrations, you risk a citation for a violation of §1910.132(d)(1)(ii).

Employee Training

OSHA wants employees to fully understand their use of PPE. During an inspection, the CSHO will make sure you’ve trained each employee on the following:

➤ When and what PPE is necessary;

➤ How to don, doff, adjust and wear the PPE;

➤ The limitations of PPE; and

➤ The proper care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of PPE.

The training requirements apply when PPE is used to protect the eyes and face, head, feet and hands. Failure to meet these requirements can bring a citation for a violation of §1910.132(f)(1)(i)–(v).

The CSHO will observe your employees and ask them questions to determine whether each employee who performs work requiring the use of PPE can demonstrate an understanding of the required training and the ability to use the PPE properly. You can be cited for a violation of §1910.132(f)(2) if you fail to meet the training requirements.

Refresher training isn’t required annually or on a set schedule, but be sure to retrain each affected employee when changes in the workplace or in the types of PPE used have made previous training obsolete. CSHOs will cite §1910.132(f)(3) when they discover a lack of necessary refresher training.

The directive indicates that OSHA does allow you to depend on training provided by a previous employer. In this case, the CSHO won’t issue a citation for a training violation if he determines the employee has the requisite knowledge and skill through his or her prior experience.

The directive includes provisions for citing the employer for not having a written certification of training. However, the certification requirement was deleted in a final rule published in the Federal Register on June 8, 2011. You no longer need to have a written certification of PPE training.

Employer Payment

Perhaps the most contentious revision to the PPE standards is the requirement for employer payment. This topic also raises the most questions on OSHA’s expectations.

In general, when PPE is required, you must provide it at no cost to your employees. In enforcing these requirements, CSHOs will first establish the existence of an employer-employee relationship.

The nature and degree of control asserted over the work is one of many factors in the employer-employee relationship. Other factors include the level of skill required, the location of the work, the duration of the relationship between the parties, the method of payment, the individual’s role in hiring and paying assistants, whether the work is the regular business of the employer, the provision of employee benefits and the tax treatment of the individual. A truly self-employed “independent contractor” is not considered to be an “employee” in regard to PPE payment requirements. CSHOs carefully will scrutinize the nature and degree of control asserted over employees involved in day-to-day activities to determine whether they are, in fact, independent contractors.

When you do provide and pay for appropriate PPE necessary to protect your employees, you don’t have to pay for upgraded PPE that an employee wants to provide for his own use. However, if you decide to select and provide PPE that goes beyond OSHA’s minimum requirements, the directive indicates that you have to pay for the “upgraded” PPE.

Exceptions from Payment Requirements

There are exceptions to the payment requirements. For example, you don’t have to pay for non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear or non-specialty prescription safety eyewear if you allow the employee to wear it off the job site. You do need to provide and pay for appropriate non-prescription safety eyewear for the employee, and if specialty prescription eyewear, such as inserts for a respirator facepiece, is necessary, you must pay for it. If metatarsal guards are necessary, you don’t have to provide and pay for safety footwear with built-in metatarsal protection if you provide, at no cost to employees, metatarsal guards that can be attached to the outside of the shoe or boot.

The directive addresses questions that arise concerning workers’ clothing. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, street shoes and ordinary fabric or leather work gloves may help employees avoid workplace injury and have protective value; however, at §1910.132(h)(4)(ii), this type of clothing is excluded from the payment requirements.

In addition, under §1910.132(h)(4)(iii), you don’t have to pay for ordinary clothing, skin creams or other items used solely for protection from the weather such as winter coats, jackets, gloves and parkas that employees normally would wear to protect themselves from the elements. However, you must pay for clothing needed for protection from unusually severe weather conditions. In addition, clothing used in artificially-controlled environments with extreme hot or cold temperatures, such as freezers, is not considered part of the weather gear exception.

The directive includes two tables to explain the payment requirements:

➤ Examples of PPE for which Employer Payment is Required When Used to Comply with an OSHA Standard and

➤ Examples of PPE and Other Items Exempted from the Employer Payment Requirements.

Paying for Replacement PPE

You must provide replacement PPE at no cost to the employee except when the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE. This exception even applies if it’s a single instance of lost PPE. The directive states that you can consider PPE to be lost if the employee comes to work without it.

To cut down on lost PPE, the directive clarifies that you may require the PPE you’ve provided to remain at the work site in lockers or other storage facilities. If you do allow employees to take PPE off of the job site, you still initially must provide the required PPE at no cost to employees. In addition, the rule doesn’t prohibit you from sending employees home to retrieve the PPE or from charging an employee for replacement PPE when the employee fails to bring the PPE back to the workplace.

If you do allow an employee to voluntarily use appropriate PPE that he already owns, you cannot force the employee to also provide his own replacement PPE. When it’s time to replace employee-owned PPE, it’s likely that you’ll provide and pay for it.

PPE Policies

You’re free to develop and implement workplace rules, such as reasonable and appropriate disciplinary policies, replacement schedules and allowances, to ensure that employees have and use the PPE you’ve provided.

The directive includes many sample citation scenarios for violations of the employer payment requirements, and it has a section on PPE payment questions and answers that you may want to review.

PPE probably is a large part of your safety budget. The use of PPE readily is apparent during an OSHA inspection, and CSHOs are concerned that it’s being used properly. Recent changes to PPE rules have prompted OSHA to update the instructions that CSHOs follow when they evaluate compliance with PPE requirements. You can consider these same instructions as you implement your PPE program. OSHA’s compliance directive, 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart I, Enforcement Guidance for Personal Protective Equipment in General Industry (CPL 02-01-050) is available on OSHA’s Web site at http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_02-01-050.pdf.

Judie Smithers is an editor, workplace safety, with J. J. Keller & Associates Inc., Neenah, Wis.; (800) 558-5011; http://www.jjkeller.com.

TAGS: OSHA
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