Who Must Pay for PPE? We'll Know Soon
(But don't expect an answer that's as simple as the question.)
- By Jerry Laws
- Feb 01, 2007
wince when OSHA's administrators say trimming the fat from the
agency's twice-yearly regulatory agendas is a major achievement. What's
left when the cutting is done is beyond lean; it's emaciated. Yes, the
agendas should be realistic, but recent ones are painful reminders that
little is being accomplished on the regulatory front and little is
The latest agenda, issued in December, surprised me by saying OSHA
intends to complete in July 2007 its revision of electrical standards
for general industry and construction, the ones that apply to workers
who build and maintain electrical power and distribution systems. The
proposed rule is a significant, needed change, and it seemed to have
stalled last year.
The other noteworthy items are a February 2007 notice of proposed
rulemaking for a confined spaces in construction rule and final action
in May 2007 on the employer pays for PPE rule. What's odd about this
pair is that, while confined spaces are perpetually confusing and the
payment rule is as simple and straightforward as federal rulemaking can
get ("Should employers pay for the PPE they require their workers to
wear?"), the two rulemakings probably won't play out that way this
spring. My prediction: Construction confined spaces will be the easier
one by far.
I believe employers should pay for PPE and that OSHA's existing
regulations answered the question, but the Occupational Safety and
Health Review Commission decided otherwise. I also believe the payment
question can't be settled--not by this OSHA and not at this time.
Opening the door for comments on "tools of the trade" is one reason it
can't be. The other reason is that OSHA wants to tell employers they're
on the hook for PPE but can't successfully defend that position before
OSHRC and the federal courts.
Stay tuned in May. If the agendas are as realistic as OSHA's chiefs claim, we'll see whether this riddle can be solved.
This column appeared in the February 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.