Are Employers Required to Provide Appropriate PPE for Employees?

If you own a business in Dallas and have employees, you probably have a wide variety of questions about your responsibilities as an employer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued recommendations for safe in-person workplaces that include personal protective equipment (PPE), depending upon the type of workplace. Therefore, certain employees may need personal protective equipment who did not require it prior to the start of the pandemic. At the same time, many employers have been requiring PPE for certain employees outside COVID-19 considerations. Some jobs require PPE for compliance with safety guidelines regardless of whether a pandemic exists.

In any of the scenarios mentioned above, do you need to provide appropriate PPE for your employees? For most employers, the answer is yes. We will explain in more detail below.

OSHA Requires Employers to Provide Protection

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), federal law requires employers to protect employees from workplace hazards that pose risks of injury or illness. As OSHA emphasizes, employers should take all steps necessary to control “a hazard at its source.” However, if an employer cannot control a hazard, then the employer is required to provide PPE and to ensure that workers use it.

OSHA underscores that protective equipment may be used to prevent the spread of viruses, but it is also worn “to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards.” PPE that an employer must provide depends upon the hazards at the workplace. Before determining what protective equipment the employer must provide, that employer should perform a “hazard assessment” at the workplace, and then should identify appropriate PPE for employees given the particular hazards in the workplace.

Some Employers Must Pay for PPE and Provide Training in its Proper Use

It is critical for some employers to know that they must provide PPE, and they cannot take the costs from an employee’s pay. To be sure, OSHA clarifies that, since 2008, OSHA requires most employers to pay for personal protective equipment that is necessary “to comply with OSHA standards.” Indeed, “employers cannot require workers to provide their own PPE,” and if an employee does decide to use his or her own protective equipment, that decision must be voluntary. Employers also must provide training in proper use and maintenance of PPE.

Types of protective equipment that an employer must pay for and provide to employees may include, for instance:

  • Rubber boots;
  • Eye protection;
  • Respirators;
  • Prescription eyewear for full-face respirators;
  • Goggles;
  • Face shields;
  • Helmets;
  • Gloves;
  • Hard hats; and
  • Hearing protection.

Depending upon the nature of the workplace and the type of hazard, employers may be required to pay for and provide other types of PPE, as well. In workplaces preparing for COVID-19 risks or other infectious diseases in the workplace, employers may need to provide additional forms of protective equipment and may be obligated to regularly inspect, clean, and replace it when necessary.

Contact a Dallas Employment Law Attorney

If you have any questions or concerns about your responsibilities as an employer to provide PPE, you should speak with an experienced Dallas employment lawyer about your obligations. Contact Simon Paschal PLLC to learn more about the services we provide to employers in Texas.

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