OSHA to Proceed With a Construction Workers Protective Gear “Fit” Rule
Tuesday, OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health agreed that the U.S. Department of Labor’s occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should initiate the process to draft a proposed rule mandating that protective clothing and safety gear “fit” the person wearing it. The proposed rule would be subject to public comments. The OSHA Advisory Committee believes public comments will help clarify how to define “fit.” This process is likely to take several years. And it comes after many years of effort by safety advocates to ensure construction workers have the same right to protective gear that “fits” as OSHA already enforces for workers in manufacturing and general industry.
Current regulations at 29 CFR 1926.95(a) state that in the construction industry personal protective equipment employers (PPE) are obliged to supply “shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary.” Furthermore, 29 C.F.R. 1926.95(c) mandates that “[a]ll personal protective equipment shall be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed.” This construction-specific standard does not, however, contain an explicit requirement for PPE used in construction to fit each affected employee, as is required in the regulations governing employer-provided PPE in manufacturing and general industry at 29 C.F.R. 1910.132(d)(1)(iii).
Many view the absence of a “fit” requirement in the construction specific standards as a drafting “oversight, but efforts to correct date to an OSHA standards improvement project dating back to the Obama Administration that was just completed this past May. The Trump Labor Department determined that clarification of a “fit” mandate for employer-provided PPE in construction needed to be the subject of a stand-alone rulemaking to ensure that issues such as how agency inspectors should evaluate fit are properly considered.” The forthcoming proposed rule is expected to address this and other issues arising from imposing an explicit proper “fit” requirement on the construction industry. An explicit “fit” requirement will improve OSHA’s ability to cite employers in cases where the failure to provide properly fitting equipment poses a safety hazard.