Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has become distinctly familiar with the term “PPE,” short for personal protective equipment. But you may be surprised to learn that personal protective equipment is not just meant for protection from communicable diseases.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established workplace standards designed to protect workers from injury and illness in most public and private work environments. Under OSHA guidelines, employers are required to provide employees with equipment that reduces the risk of certain workplace hazards and promotes employee safety. Personal protective equipment is any item used to protect employees from safety hazards common to a particular industry or workplace.
Personal protective equipment is especially important given the number of injuries and illnesses that occur at work. In 2021, there were 2.6 million work-related injuries and illnesses in private businesses.
What personal protective equipment is an employer required to provide?
The personal protective equipment that employers must provide depends largely upon the work environment and the type of job being performed. Employers must assess the employee’s workspace to identify the appropriate types of personal protective equipment needed to protect workers in that setting.
Examples of personal protective equipment that employers must provide for employees include the following:
- Hard hats
- Face shields
- Chemical gloves
- Reflective work vests
- Protective leg guards
- Hearing protection (such as earplugs or earmuffs)
- Specialty foot protection
- Nonprescription eye protection
- Prescription eyewear inserts or lenses for full-face respirators
- Firefighting gear
- Welding gear
- Safety belts
- Flotation devices
- Climbing hooks
Because OSHA regulations place the burden on employers to provide personal protective equipment for use in the workplace, employers cannot require employees to provide their own personal protective equipment for routine work hazards. If employees choose to voluntarily provide their own personal protective equipment, the employer is still responsible for making sure it offers adequate protection from workplace hazards.
And, while employers cannot make employees foot the bill for necessary PHE, employers may elect to provide allowances or establish reimbursement procedures for the purchase of PHE by employees.
What safety equipment is my employer not required to provide?
Although employers are required to provide adequate personal protective equipment to employees, there are some items that employers are not required to pay for or provide. A good rule of thumb is that employers generally aren’t required to pay for nonspecialty items, such as nonessential rain or other weather gear, rubber boots, outerwear such as coats or jackets, normal steel-toe work boots, or long-sleeve clothing.
Nor are employers required to pay for prescription safety glasses, as they are personal to the employee. Employers are also not required to provide dust masks or respirators when employees voluntarily choose to use these items.
What should I do if I think I have a personal protective equipment claim?
If your employer hasn’t offered you the required personal protective equipment and you’ve been exposed to danger or injured at work, give us a call. We work with employees who have experienced illness or injury on the job as a result of inadequate personal protective equipment. Our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers can help you file a claim. Contact us today for a no-obligation, no-cost consultation.