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The PPE Payment Predicament

by Kelly Lagana
"Employers must pay for most types of personal protective equipment (PPE) when used by employees exclusively in the workplace (i.e., not for personal use at home or other nonworkplace activities)."

Following is a nonexhaustive sample list of PPE that you, the employer, must provide at no cost to the employee:

  • Electrical protection (electrically insulated tools, rubber insulating gloves)
  • Chemical protection (chemical-resistant gloves/aprons/clothing, encapsulating chemical-protective suits)
  • Foot protection (metatarsal foot protection, special boots for longshoremen working logs on log ships, rubber boots with steel toes, shoe covers—toe caps and metatarsal guards)
  • Eye and face protection (nonprescription eye protection, prescription eyewear inserts/lenses for full-face respirators, prescription eyewear inserts/lenses for welding and diving helmets, goggles, face shields, laser safety goggles)
  • Head protection (bump caps, hard hats)
  • Hearing protection
  • Hand/arm/body protection (rubber sleeves, aluminized gloves, mesh cutproof gloves, leather gloves, mesh or leather aprons)
  • Nonspecialty gloves (payment is required for PPE to protect from dermatitis, severe cuts/abrasions; payment is not required if they are only for keeping clean or for cold weather with no site-specific hazard consideration)
  • Reflective work vests
  • Respiratory protection
  • Skin protection (barrier creams, unless used solely for weather-related protection)
  • Fall protection (ladder safety device belts, climbing ensembles used by linemen such as belts and climbing hooks, window cleaner’s safety straps)
  • Fire-fighting PPE (helmets, gloves, boots, proximity suits, full gear)
  • Welding PPE (including fire-resistant shirts, jackets, and sleeves)
  • Items used in medical/laboratory settings (aprons, lab coats, goggles, disposable gloves, shoe covers, etc.) to protect from exposure to infectious agents
  • Personal flotation devices (life jackets)

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Exempt Items from the "Employer Pays" Requirement

Employers are not required to pay for the following clothes or items that are not worn by employees exclusively for protection from hazards:

  • Certain foot protection (e.g., nonspecialty safety-toe protective footwear, provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the jobsite, steel-toe shoes, steel-toe boots, shoes or boots with built-in metatarsal protection that the employee chooses instead of metatarsal guards provided by the employer, and logging boots under the logging standard (29 CFR 1910.266(d))
  • Nonspecialty prescription safety eyewear, provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the jobsite
  • Everyday clothing (long-sleeved shirts, long pants, street shoes, and normal work boots)
  • Ordinary clothing and skin creams used solely for protection from the weather (e.g., winter coats, gloves, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen)
  • Back belts
  • Dust masks and respirators worn under the voluntary-use provisions of the PPE standard
  • Items worn for product or consumer safety or patient safety and health rather than for employee safety and health (for example, hair nets to prevent food contamination during preparation)
  • Uniforms that are not PPE
  • Items worn to keep clean for purposes not related to safety and health
  • PPE already owned and used voluntarily by the employee

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PPE Replacement

Employers must pay to replace worn or damaged PPE as part of the employer’s obligation to ensure that the PPE is in good condition. The employer is not required to pay for replacement when the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE.

Employee-Owned PPE

When an employee voluntarily purchases and wears his or her own PPE and is allowed to use it at the workplace, the employer is not required to reimburse the employee for that equipment. If employees are allowed to use their own PPE, however, the employer is responsible for its adequacy, maintenance, and sanitation.

If an employee has provided his or her own PPE but the employer’s hazard assessment determines that an upgrade to or replacement of PPE is required, the employer must pay for the upgrade or replacement regardless of who paid for the original PPE.

See tomorrow’s Advisor for some PPE payment guidelines you should know.


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