In early August 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced its proposed rule to revise and clarify the personal protective equipment (PPE) fitting requirements under its PPE standard for the construction industry. Briefly, the proposed rule states that such PPE must fit covered construction employees properly to protect them from various safety hazards. As it stands, the current PPE standard for the construction industry under 29 CFR 1926.95 does not explicitly state proper fit requirements under its design criteria. OSHA has given particular focus to enforcing standards within the construction industry as of late. In July 2023, OSHA cited a construction contractor over $1 million for failing to provide adequate fall protection.
OSHA’s Construction Industry PPE Standard
Under OSHA’s Construction Industry PPE Standard 29 CFR 1926.95, employers in the construction industry must provide employees with reliable PPE whenever a specific workplace hazard requires it. Hazards can include chemical, radiological, mechanical irritant, environmental, or other threats related to processes. Anything workers encounter that can cause injury or impairment through bodily absorption, inhalation, or physical contact could qualify as a hazard. Such PPE can include the following:
- Eye and face protection;
- Head protection;
- Protective face shields and safety glasses;
- Respiratory protection;
- Hearing protection; and
- Protective equipment for extremities.
Finally, employers must ensure that employees use the PPE and that it remains sanitary and in good condition.
Proposed Rule to Clarify PPE Fit Requirements in Construction
In light of varying size requirements in the construction workforce and often limited size options or “one-size-fits-all” designs of available PPE, OSHA proposed to clarify fit requirements in its Construction Industry PPE Standard. Specifically, its proposed rule amends section 1926.95(c), which covers the required PPE’s design. Currently, the standard only states that “all personal protective equipment shall be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed.” OSHA’s proposed amendments would make the following changes to 29 CFR 1926.95(c):
- 95(c)(1) – moving the “safe design and construction” requirement to this subparagraph; and
- 95(c)(2) – adding a requirement that employers select PPE that properly fits each affected employee.
In addition, the main paragraph of the section would require that employers meet requirements in both subparagraphs under the section to be in compliance with the construction industry PPE standard.
In its proposed rule, OSHA states that improperly fitting PPE (like goggles with gaps in the temples that can allow intrusion by debris) may fail to protect workers from hazards and even create additional risks for those workers. For example, loose-fitting gloves may get caught in moving machinery and lead to crushing or amputation injuries. Therefore, ahead of the rule, employers should ensure that PPE is in a reliable condition and adequate to protect employees from all recognized hazards in the workplace.