CHANTILLY, Va. - According to the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) final rule clarifies the requirement that employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) at no charge to employees. The currently effective standard applies to general industry (shop) and construction settings.

While creating no new obligations for employers to provide PPE, the rule specifies when the employer must pay for PPE and lists the narrow exceptions. Under the new rule, employers are required to pay for the minimum PPE that meets applicable certifications and OSHA standards, and is appropriate to the hazards. The employer, however, does not have to pay for upgraded PPE requested by the employee, everyday clothing, or weather-related gear not considered PPE. Furthermore, the rule states that the employer is not responsible to pay for replacement of any PPE that is lost or intentionally damaged.

In examining the effect of the rule on collective bargaining agreements, SMACNA reported that the rule might impose obligations upon employers that conflict with the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement concerning the furnishing of protective equipment. After reviewing the rule carefully, OSHA determined that workplaces with collective bargaining agreements should be treated no differently in the final rule than workplaces without collective bargaining agreements. Consequently, employers must comply with the rule even if it imposes obligations that go beyond what has been collectively bargained.

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Publication date:07/21/2008