OSHA Considers Strengthening Personal Protective Equipment Rules

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a proposed rule on August 19 that could expose employers to liability on a per-employee basis for personal protective equipment violations.  See the press release from OSHA below for more information:

 OSHA seeks approval for proposed rule on remedies for violations of personal protective equipment and training standards

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will announce today in the Aug. 19 Federal Register that it is accepting public comments on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and training standards. The proposal clarifies that when an OSHA standard requires an employer to provide PPE, such as respirators, or training to employees, the employer must do so for each employee subject to the requirement. Each employee not protected may be considered a separate violation for penalty purposes.

“We want employers to understand the importance of complying with OSHA’s PPE rule for each and every one of their employees,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. “Without question, providing PPE for all employees will reduce costs, save money and, most importantly, save lives.”

The proposed rule affects OSHA’s general industry, construction, and maritime standards. In many cases, OSHA combines separate violations of a single requirement in a standard into a single penalty. However, under the instance-by-instance penalty policy, OSHA may propose a separate penalty for each specific violation where the employer demonstrates a flagrant disregard for safety and health.

The proposed rule makes clear that failure to provide appropriate PPE or training may result in per-instance penalties in appropriate cases. The proposed rule does not add new compliance obligations, nor are employers required to provide any new type of PPE or training. The amendments merely clarify that a separate penalty may be assessed for each employee not provided the required PPE or training.

The agency will accept public comments on the proposed rule until Sept. 18. Interested parties may submit comments electronically at http://www.regulations.gov/, the Federal eRulemaking Portal; by sending three copies to the OSHA Docket Office, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room N-2625, Washington, DC 20210; or by FAX at (202) 693-1678 if the comments and attachments do not exceed 10 pages. Comments must include the Agency name and Docket Number for this rulemaking (Docket No. OSHA-2008-0031).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA’s role is to promote the safety and health of America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/index.html.

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