Personal Protective Equipment – What is the Employer’s Responsibility?

When most people think about construction sites and safety equipment for employees the first thing that probably pops in their mind is a hardhat. The international icon of the industry, but only one element of many that  contractors and subcontractors  must provide – at no cost – to their employees according to OSHA.

Do you know what you as an employer are required by law to provide to your employees? Take a moment to read through the following list of simple straightforward directives. You might be surprised by what the standards say.


“Application.” Protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers, shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment, chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.

“Employee-owned equipment.” Where employees provide their own protective equipment, the employer shall be responsible to assure its adequacy, including proper maintenance, and sanitation of such equipment.

“Design.” All personal protective equipment shall be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed.

Payment for protective equipment.

Except as provided by paragraphs (d)(2) through (d)(6) of this section, the protective equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), used to comply with this part, shall be provided by the employer at no cost to employees.

The employer is not required to pay for non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or steel-toe boots) and non-specialty prescription safety eyewear, provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the job-site.

When the employer provides metatarsal guards and allows the employee, at his or her request, to use shoes or boots with built-in metatarsal protection, the employer is not required to reimburse the employee for the shoes or boots.

The employer is not required to pay for:

Everyday clothing, such as long-sleeve shirts, long pants, street shoes, and normal work boots; or

Ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen.

The employer must pay for replacement PPE, except when the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE.

Where an employee provides adequate protective equipment he or she owns pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section, the employer may allow the employee to use it and is not required to reimburse the employee for that equipment. The employer shall not require an employee to provide or pay for his or her own PPE, unless the PPE is excepted by paragraphs (d)(2) through (d)(5) of this section.

Unfortunately, contractors are not free to choose which standards and regulations they wish to implement including their obligations regarding PPE. Protective Equipment is readily available and should be a top priority of your company’s Safety Messaging and Safety Training.

Be sure to include PPE to your jobsite inspection checklist, address deficiencies aggressively and sleep well knowing you are doing all you can do to assure a safe work environment.

 The FlatRock Group provides free ToolBox Talks as a service to the industry. This content may be downloaded using the “Download PDF” icon at the bottom of each Talk. Once downloaded user may reproduce additional copies for use in conducting site ToolBox Talks and training as described below.  Employers, managers, employees and workplace safety and health professionals  are authorized to use this material in their workplaces or practices in accordance with our Copyright & Disclaimer Policies.  All tips and content contained in these ToolBox Talks are believed to true, correct and safe; however, The FlatRock Group, LLC and/or the Author accepts no legal responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency, or completeness of such information or suggestions contained within these ToolBox Talks. 

 Personal Protective Equipment – What is the Employer’s Responsibility


Spread the word. Share this post!

About the author

Kent Leighton, Founder of The Flat Rock Group, has more than 40 years of experience in the Construction and Development Industry. Having owned a successful midsize General Contracting firm he understands the opportunities and trials of running a successful business enterprise. His passion is sharing his victories and his scars with leaders and managers to help them grow and prosper.