Jan. 5, 2007 – Two unions filed suit against a government agency this week for continuing to allow employers to make their workers pay for safety equipment needed on hazardous job sites.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) first proposed to require employers to pay for personal protective equipment in 1999. It reopened part of the proposed rule for public comment in 2004. Despite repeated assurances that a final rule would be made, nearly eight years later, some workers still have to shell for their own protective gear.
The AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers are suing the US Department of Labor, accusing it of foot-dragging. They are asking the court to order the Secretary of Labor to complete the rulemaking within 60 days of the courtâ€™s decision.
Currently, some OSHA rules require employers in hazard-specific occupations to provide protective equipment to employees. But as OSHA admitted in 2004, most rules are "silent with regard to whether the employer is obligated to pay."
The proposed rule clarifies that it, in most cases, is the employerâ€™s responsibility to provide safety equipment to employees, including protective clothing, lifelines, face shields and gloves.
In 1999, OSHA said nearly 50,000 workplace injuries could be prevented each year by requiring employers to pay for protective equipment.