Fans of the British rock band Dire Straits are familiar with the falsetto vocal introduction “I want my MTV” sung by Sting on their 1985 hit song “Money for Nothing”. Now imagine a different version whereby Sting chants “I want my PPE” as a call to workers to remember to protect themselves when faced with job hazards that engineering and administrative measures can’t effectively control. The title of the song might then be changed to “Protection for Nothing” from the standpoint of OSHA’s position on making personal protective equipment available to employees.
As specifically stated in the payment for protective equipment section of OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment standard, 29 CFR 1910.132, “Except as provided by paragraphs (h)(2) through (h)(6) of this section, the protective equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), used to comply with this part, shall be provided by the employer at no cost to employees.” The exceptions to employer payment include non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear, non-specialty prescription safety eyewear, shoes or boots with built-in metatarsal protection, logging boots, everyday clothing, and ordinary clothing used solely for protection from weather. The standard also states the employer must pay for replacement PPE, except when the employee lost or intentionally damaged the PPE. Employees can use PPE they own, if adequate, with the employer not obligated to reimburse the employee for this equipment.
So as a new, fast-paced workday begins and workers prepare for the job tasks at hand, they should pause for a moment to ensure they’re adequately safeguarded from hazards, along the lines of “I want my PPE”. Where the protective equipment is furnished by the employer, at no charge, the employee’s responsibility is to inspect it, clean it, store it properly, and most importantly wear it!
For more information on personal protective equipment including a PPE hazard evaluation form and sample program, check out the resources within the MEMIC Safety Director.