The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) recently released guidance about personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE (which includes hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, etc.) is a last line of defense to be used by workers only when a hazard can’t be engineered out or mitigated through administrative controls.
The full guidance document issued by OSHA can be found here. Highlights include:
- The host employer has the primary responsibility of selecting, providing and ensuring the use of PPE for temporary employees since they’re more familiar with the hazards, retain more control over the workplace.
- The staffing agency should take reasonable steps to ensure that PPE Hazard Assessments are completed and that PPE is provided to the temporary employees. The PPE is determined using a PPE Hazard Assessment. This document is meant to assist employers in evaluating which PPE is appropriate for the hazards at their workplace. For example, if employees must touch hot materials to move them from one area to another, the assessment would indicate that there’s a hazard for burns to the hand, which can be controlled by heat-resistant gloves. Once the PPE has been determined, it’s then the employer’s responsibility to provide that PPE to employees and train them on the PPE they’re required to use.
- The host employer or staffing agency need to provide the required PPE training. (Usually the host employer is best suited to do this.)
- PPE must be provided to temporary employees at no cost (with some key exceptions). The staffing firm may provide some of the required PPE as long as the host employer ensures it’s the correct PPE. If an agreement is made in which the staffing firm will provide PPE, it should be detailed in the contract.
Not sure of your role as an employer? OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free, confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses with top priority given to high-hazard work sites. For info or compliance assistance, contact OSHA at 1‑800‑321‑OSHA (6742).
OSHA exists to assure workers’ right to a safe workplace. Workers who feel they may be in an unsafe workplace or who have questions may call OSHA’s confidential line at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Visit OSHA’s Workers’ page for info on Workers’ Rights, Employer Responsibilities and other services and worker protection info that OSHA offers.