Employer Pays' Rule Will Be Issued in November

Facing a lawsuit's court-ordered deadline as well as a bill co-sponsored by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif. and a member of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, the U.S. Labor Department has promised to issue a final rule in November requiring employers to pay for PPE. No confirming announcement was posted by DOL or OSHA, but the HELP Committee's Web site and the AFL-CIO posted statements applauding the decision. The AFL-CIO said DOL filed papers in the federal case on March 14 promising to issue the standard. (The AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union filed the suit.)

"Although it shouldn't have taken a lawsuit to get the Department of Labor to do the right thing, it's good to see that the department now plans to require employers to take simple steps to protect workers from everyday workplace hazards," Miller said. "Our committee will keep a watchful eye on the department to make sure it implements -- by November -- a strong rule that protects workers."

Responding to a case it lost before OSHRC, OSHA proposed the rule in 1999 to require employers to pay for PPE used by their employees. OSHA later reopened the rulemaking docket to take comments about which types of PPE should be considered "tools of the trade." AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, whose organization filed the suit Jan. 3, said the rulemaking "has taken far too long. We will be monitoring the Department of Labor's actions to make sure they honor this commitment and issue a strong, protective rule." The Washington, D.C. court had ordered DOL to respond by March 19. "This is a victory for workers who have suffered needlessly while awaiting action by the Bush administration," said Joe Hansen, UFCW International president. "According to OSHA's own estimates, 400,000 workers have been injured and 50 have died while the rule has been in limbo. We expect a strong final rule this November." The AFL-CIO says the rule will help workers in the meatpacking, poultry, and construction industries and low-wage and immigrant workers because they are most vulnerable to injury.

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