OSHA proposes rule to clarify PPE standard

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced a notice of proposed rulemaking to clarify the personal protective equipment standard for the construction industry.

The current standard does not state clearly that PPE must fit each affected employee properly, which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s general industry and maritime standards do. The proposed change would clarify that PPE must fit each employee properly to protect them from occupational hazards.

fall protection training Becky Danielson, middle right, provides fall protection training. (Photo: Becky Danielson)

The news follows the DoL and OSHA’s previous announcement regarding a National Emphasis Program to protect workers by preventing falls, the leading cause of fatalities in the workplace. 

Additionally, a new ANSI standard will do away with “leading-edge,” or LE, designations on new self-retracting fall-arrest equipment and make the choice of types of gear more straightforward beginning August 1, 2023. Click here to read our exclusive report.

The failure of standard-sized PPE to protect physically smaller construction workers properly, as well as problems with access to properly fitting PPE, have long been safety and health concerns in the construction industry, especially for some women. The proposed rule clarifies the existing requirement, and OSHA does not expect the change will increase employers’ costs or compliance burdens. The proposed revision would align the language in OSHA’s PPE standard for construction with standards for general industry and maritime.

“If personal protective equipment does not fit properly, an employee may be unprotected or dangerously exposed to hazards and face tragic consequences,” explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “We look forward to hearing from stakeholders on this important issue as we work together to ensure that construction workers of all genders and sizes are fitted properly with safety gear.”

Interested parties can submit comments and hearing requests online using the Federal eRulemaking Portal and reference Docket No. OSHA-2019-0003, here. Comments and hearing requests must be submitted by Sept. 18, 2023.

“PPE must fit properly to provide adequate protection to employees. Improperly fitting PPE may fail to provide any protection to an employee, present additional hazards, or discourage employees from using such equipment in the workplace,” OSHA said. 

For more on PPE and updated required fall protection standards, see SA’s sit-down interview Tractel’s Becky Danielson, who serves as Chair of the Scaffold & Access Industry Associations’ Fall Protection Council. For additional insight and commentary, longtime SA contributor David Glabe provides his take on all-things fall protection in a recent column, here.

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