The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a final rule on employer-paid personal protective equipment (PPE). This final rule is intended to clarify who is responsible for paying for PPE. Under the new rule, nearly all PPE, with a few exceptions, must be provided by the employer at no cost to the employee. OSHA anticipates that this rule will have substantial safety benefits, starting with greater compliance, which will result in more than 21,000 fewer occupational injuries per year.

The final rule contains a few exceptions for ordinary safety-toed footwear, ordinary prescription safety eyewear, logging boots, and ordinary clothing and weather-related gear. The final rule also clarifies OSHA’s requirements regarding payment for employee- owned PPE and replacement PPE.

Employers who currently require employees to provide PPE or contribute to its cost must revise their policies and practices. The rule provides an enforcement deadline of six months from the date of publication, until May, 15, 2008, to allow employers time to change their existing PPE payment policies to accommodate the final rule.