PPE keeps employees safe as they perform dangerous jobs. This equipment saves lives and reduces the risk of significant injuries and infections. However, PPE comes at a price. Are employers required to provide PPE, or does that cost fall on employees? It’s not straightforward in all instances.
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What is PPE?
PPE stands for personal protective equipment. People wear this equipment at jobs with a higher chance of injury or infection. The most mainstream personal protective equipment is the face mask.
Nurses wore face masks to protect themselves from particles and germs long before the pandemic. Face masks don’t guarantee protection, but they reduce the chances of a nurse contracting an infection while serving a patient.
Nurses are far from the only profession that requires PPE. Construction workers need PPE such as a hard helmet, goggles, and other equipment. Without this necessary equipment, construction workers can suffer long-term, life-altering injuries at their jobs.
Are employers required to provide PPE?
In general, employers must provide their employees with proper PPE. This OSHA handout explains the OSHA requirement that prevents expenses from falling onto the employees. Not every employee can afford PPE expenses, which in turn would put their safety at risk.
Employers must monitor PPE and replace worn or damaged materials. Employees can notify their employers about PPE maintenance and advise on necessary updates. A team effort leads to high-quality personal protective equipment for all employees.
Which PPE costs fall on employees?
While employers cover the bulk of PPE expenses, some exceptions exist. Some people can stretch the PPE rule to include any protective equipment. Employers do not have to cover personal style choices. Casual clothing and non-specialty equipment do not fall within an employer’s PPE responsibilities. Certain items such as hairnets and gloves worn by food workers also fall out of an employer’s obligations.
Who pays for damaged and stolen PPE?
Over time, PPE will get worn and damaged. Employers must replace this PPE to provide employees with optimal safety. Some employees will accidentally damage PPE. Employers must cover PPE expenses for human error. However, if employees intentionally damage or steal PPE equipment, an employer can have the guilty employee pay for the damaged or stolen PPE. An employer can deduct parts of an employee’s paycheck until the appropriate PPE costs get paid in full.
Some states require employers to notify employees in advance about paying for damages. California and Illinois both require written consent from the employee before PPE costs can be deducted from their paychecks. Employers should check their state’s laws before asking employees to pay for intentionally damaged or stolen PPE.
How to determine which PPE Is necessary
Not all PPE is necessary for specific occupations. You won’t find a barber wearing a hard hat. Employers conduct hazard assessments to determine the required PPE for a given job. Hazard assessments identify potential hazards and their likelihood of inflicting injury to workers. Construction workers wear hard helmets, as an example, because debris can fall from a construction project and hit them in the head.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration establishes standard PPE requirements for companies to follow. Employers operating in higher-risk industries should expect to invest in the following PPE:
- Eye and face protection
- Head protection
- Respiratory protection
- Hand protection
- Foot protection
- General requirements
OSHA has set PPE standards for various industries. These standards represent the minimum, but some employers provide additional PPE based on their findings from hazard assessments. OSHA has specific PPE requirements for construction, shipyards, and marine terminals.
PPE training helps employees correctly utilize their protective equipment. Proper usage reduces mistakes and improves workplace safety. OSHA requires employers to train their workers to use and maintain personal protective equipment.
Improper or nonexistent training lowers the impact of PPE investments. If employees do not adequately wear PPE, they expose themselves to unnecessary injuries and infections. Training also highlights the team effort required to maintain optimal PPE.
Employees watch training sessions, wear PPE correctly, and maintain PPE. These efforts can extend the effectiveness of PPE materials, but employers should not cut corners. Worn out PPE should get replaced immediately.
A financial safety net to complement your PPE
PPE provides companies with a reliable safety net. Safer equipment reduces injuries and illnesses from the job. The proper use of PPE by all employees also protects a company’s finances.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are employers required to provide PPE?
Yes, employers are required to provide PPE to their employees.
What PPE will employers not cover?
While employers must cover various PPE, they don’t cover everything. Employers will not cover casual clothing, non-specialty items, and other personal items.
Can you wash disposable PPE?
No. Disposable PPE only gets used one time by one person. After use, do not reuse disposable PPE.