OSHA Ergo Standard May Allow Back Belts as PPE

OSHA's long-awaited final ergonomics standard had some surprising\r\nchanges, including a new definition of PPE.

OSHA''s long-awaited final ergonomics standard had some surprising changes, including a new definition of PPE.

The rule establishes the hierarchy of controls, in which PPE is the last line of defense, only to be used when engineering and administrative controls either have been used or are deemed to be unfeasible.

Where PPE is used, it must be provided at no cost to the employee.

A significant change from the proposed rule is the partial acceptance of back belts as PPE.

A note in the proposed standard had specifically excluded back belts and wrist supports from being considered PPE.

Now OSHA "is persuaded that the evidence for the effectiveness of back belts, although limited, exceeds that available for other types of equipment that workers wear that is classified as PPE (e.g., palms pads, knee pads).

OSHA has therefore decided not to prohibit the classification of back belts as PPE for the purposes of this standard. Accordingly, the note to that effect contained in the proposal does not appear in the final rule. Permitting back belts to be used as PPE means that employers will be required to provide them to their workers, if they choose to do so, at no cost to employees. Further, as with any PPE, back belts used in this manner are subject to OSHA''s standard for PPE (29 CFR 1910.32)."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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