Question of the Week: Employer Provided PPE

Posted on 3/1/2011 by James Griffin

Q. As an employer in a hazardous work environment, do I always have to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for my employees or can I deduct the cost of new and replacement equipment from their wages?

A. Under OSHA rules at 29 CFR 1910.132(d), employers are required to assess the hazards in their workplace, and if any hazards cannot be removed or otherwise mitigated the employer must provide PPE to employees to protect them from likely hazards. PPE includes but is not limited to, eye protection such as safety glasses, head protection such as helmets, hand protection such as gloves, and face masks or respiratory protection.

At 29 CFR 1910.132(h), OSHA explains that when an employer issues PPE to employees in order to comply with OSHA safety regulations, the employer must provide the equipment at no cost to the employee. The only equipment that employers do not have to pay for are:
  • Nonspecialty safety-toe footwear (i.e. steel-toe boots), or nonspecialty prescription safety eyewear provided these items can be worn offsite,
  • Safety-toe footwear if the employer provides other metatarsal guards,
  • Logging boots,
  • Everyday clothing such as long-sleeve shirts and normal work boots,
  • Ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather (i.e. winter coats, sunscreen),
  • Replacement PPE when the employee loses or intentionally damages the PPE, or
  • PPE owned by an employee when the employer allows the use of that equipment in lieu of PPE that the employer would otherwise purchase.
References: 29 CFR Part 1910 Subpart I—“Personal Protective Equipment”
OSHA Directive # CPL 02-01-050. Enforcement Guidance for Personal Protective Equipment in General Industry. February 10, 2011.

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