There was a time, not too long ago, when employees who worked in hazardous areas or at hazardous job had to supply their own Personal Protective Equipment, also known as PPE.
I guess that seemed like a good policy at the time. It saved the company money, because the cost came out of the employees pocket. And in theory, since the employee was protecting themselves, they would be extra careful and make sure all the bases (or the fingers or whatever) were covered.
But in reality? Let's take the case of Pat. A good name that could apply to a woman or a man, so no one will be offended...or everyone will. Especially the Pats. But I digress...
OKAY....Pat comes to work. Pat is a machine operator who also has to use caustic chemicals from time to time. By industry standards and OSHA guidelines, Pat is supposed to use:
A hard hat
Heavy-duty, extra long gloves
Long sleeved shirts and long pants
A lab coat or smock over street clothes
A dust mask or respirator
Now Pat only makes $9.75 an hour. And PPE can get expensive. The boots alone are well over $100. So Pat skimps. Regular workboots from the discount store, no steel toes, go for $22.95. Heat and chemical resistant gloves? A pair of garden gloves instead. When it's hot, Pat wears a t-shirt. There haven't been any lab coats around the plant in years, so that's out. The rest of the stuff? Pat just doesn't have the money -- $9.75/hour only goes so far.
This went on for years. Then the rules changed.
In Rule 72:64341-64430, enacted in late 2007, OSHA declared that an
employer must pay for required PPE, except in the limited cases specified in the standard. Safety-toe protective footwear and prescription safety glasses were excepted from the employer payment requirement, in large part because these items were considered to be very personal in nature and were often worn off the jobsite.
Unfortunately, years of ignoring the standards for PPE have made employees lazy. And years of not having to pay for PPE has made employers lazy, too. But with OSHA stepping up enforcement, and industrial accidents rising, employers need to train their workers -- and themselves in safe PPE practices.
With the increased attention OSHA is paying to violations these days, training Pat -- and providing all the necessary PPE could save your company thousands.