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Employers Must Pay for ESD Footwear, OSHA Says

A newly posted Letter of Interpretation says the employer must provide it at no cost to employees who work with flammable liquids and products because the footwear provides additional protection and is designed for special use on the job.

OSHA is back in the business of posting Letters of Interpretation. Several new letters were visible yesterday on the agency's Interpretations Web page, most of them concerning construction safety topics. The letters are OSHA's answers to specific questions and thus may not be applicable beyond the specific employers who submit the questions, but they do explain how the enforcement personnel interpret its regulations. One new letter from Richard E. Fairfax, director of OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs, tells a Milwaukee employer that it must provide static dissipative safety toe footwear at no cost to employees working with flammable liquids and products because the footwear provides additional protection and is designed for special use on the job.

Fairfax cited OSHA's 2007 final rule for Employer Payment for PPE, which exempted footwear providing the protection of an ordinary safety-toe shoe or boot. Footwear with additional safety attributes falls under the employer payment requirement, he wrote.

The questioner had asked whether the footwear would be exempt from full payment if the employer allows its employees to wear the static dissipative safety-toe footwear off site, for personal use. "No," Fairfax wrote. "Since this specialty footwear is required for the job, the employer is required to provide it at no cost to the employee. This is still the case if the employer allows employees to use the footwear off the job."

Other new letters on the page said OSHA's PEL for nitric oxide as an eight-hour time-weighted average does apply to pregnant employees and answered questions about multiple lifts of pre-cast concrete members, removing ladders during trenching activities, the use of cable hook assemblies, pole grip assemblies, or adjustable levelers on fiberglass extension ladders used in construction, and payment for body belts, positioning straps, and pole and tree climbers.

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