OSHA requires employers to provide personal protective equipment (i.e., hard hats, safety glasses, safety shoes, ear plugs, respirators, etc.) to employees in certain circumstances.

Warning Garments Not Considered PPE

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has ruled in two separate decisions that warning garments are not considered personnel protective equipment (PPE) within the meaning of the OSH Act.

In the first case, OSHA had cited a U.S. Postal Service office in Massachusetts for failing to provide postal carriers with high visibility safety apparel for low-light or dark conditions. In the second case, a construction company had been cited for failing to provide high-visibility vests to highway construction workers working near road traffic.

On review, two administrative law judges and then a split commission concluded that the standards cited—the general industry standard for PPE and its construction counterpart—did not apply. The types of protective equipment listed in each of the standards do not include equipment that “warns,” said the commission, only equipment that “acts as a barrier or shield.”

In addition, other standards, such as those that cover cargo-handling and marine terminals, specifically reference warning garments, which shows that OSHA will name them when it means to require their use.

Click here for more information about PPE.

Here is a list of helpful OSHA publications on Personal Protective Equipment:

Respiratory Protection Responsibility

Today, many employees prefer to use respirators even when it’s not required by an OSHA standard. If faced with such a request, employers should first determine that the use of a respirator in this situation does not create a hazard.

Once satisfied of that, employers may provide employees with respirators or permit employees to use their own. Either way, however, employers are then required by OSHA regulations to do two things:

  • The employees involved must be given the information contained in “Information for Employees Using Respirators When Not Required Under the Standard,” which is contained in Appendix D to Section 1910.134 of the Respiratory Protection Standard; and
  • Employers must “…establish and implement elements of a written respiratory protection program necessary to ensure that any employee using a respirator voluntarily is medically able to use that respirator, and that the respirator is cleaned, stored and maintained so that its use doesn’t present a health hazard to the user.”

There is one exception: Employers are not required to include in a written respiratory protection program those employees whose only use of respirators involves the use of filtering face pieces (dust masks).