OSHA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on Sept. 7 to update its standards regarding the requirements for the proper fit of PPE for workers in the construction industry.
The agency hasn’t published the proposed rule yet, but employers in the construction industry should monitor this as its impact could be broad, according to law firm Ogletree Deakins.
Little said on PPE fit in construction standards
As per 29 CFR 1926.28, employers in the construction industry are responsible for requiring the wearing of appropriate PPE in all operations where there is an exposure to hazardous conditions or where other specific construction standards indicates the need for using such equipment to reduce the hazards to the employees.
And 29 CFR 1926.95 requires PPE be provided, used and maintained in sanitary, reliable condition “where 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.”
The same standard requires PPE be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed.
In all of these PPE discussions, the only fit requirements mentioned are for hearing, eye and face protection.
Addressed more broadly in general industry
Employers may already assume fit requirements are addressed in these standards through some of the wording involved. However, standards for PPE in general industry “broadly address fit for all PPE,” Ogletree Deakins states.
Standard 29 CFR 1910.132(d) requires employers to select PPE that properly fits each affected employee.
There are no known interpretation letters regarding PPE fit in construction and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has no decisions on it, either. OSHA does have a web page addressing it as an issue many women in the industry face and points out that PPE for women must fit properly.
Just a modification to bring in line with general industry?
A proposed OSHA rule could just modify the current construction standards to align more with the general industry standards, but there’s a chance OSHA is aiming to issue “a more robust standard that would have requirements beyond a general requirement of fit,” according to Ogletree Deakins.
Either way, employers in the construction industry should consider fit to be part of the current standard, especially when it comes to female workers.