Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Safety Equipment Regulations Updated

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published a proposed rule to clarify the requirement for personal protective equipment and training for workers. Under the rule, each employee who is not protected will be considered as a separate violation. The item, which affects personal protective equipment (PPE) in general industry, maritime and construction trades, was published in the August 19 Federal Register.

OSHA regulations have long required employers to furnish PPE, such as work gloves, safety glasses or goggles, safety masks and other protective equipment to workers at no charge.

Under the previous regulations, in some cases, if 10 workers in a single location were found not to be using protective eyewear, the courts threw out 9 of the 10 OSHA citations and penalties, and only permitted one. However, the new regulations would require employers to pay all 10 fines. The proposed revisions are primarily concerned with PPE and training related to known health hazards, such as asbestos and lead.

Under the proposed changes, employers are still responsible for issuing personal protective equipment to all workers and ensuring that it is used; it will also ensure that OSHA has the necessary tools to assess higher penalties when safety inspectors deem it necessary.

The new rule does not impose any new PPE or training requirements, but simply gives OSHA the ability to enforce its existing rules more aggressively. OSHA is accepting public comments for 30 days, until September 18.


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