From Bloomberg Law: Construction Labor Report, July 17th 2019
Development of a proposed federal worker safety rule mandating that protective clothing and safety gear fit the person wearing it was approved July 17 by OSHA’s advisory panel of construction safety experts. If the rule is enacted—a process that could take several years—construction workers would have the same right to properly fitting protective equipment as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration already enforces for workers in manufacturing and maritime industries.
Construction companies are currently required to provide personal protective equipment, such as flame-resistant clothing and protective gloves to workers, but there isn’t a specific mandate that the gear fit.
What Is ‘Fit’?
The 15 members of OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health agreed OSHA should begin writing a proposed rule and get comments from the industry on how to define “fit.”
“Fit is subjective,” committee member Cindy DePrater, senior vice president for safety at Turner Construction Co., said. OSHA will need to provide guidance to employers and inspectors on how to determine when gear fits. Simply looking at a worker and deciding clothing doesn’t fit isn’t an enforceable safety standard, committee member Ron Sokol, president of the Safety Council of Texas City, said. “You can’t look, and just size people up,” Sokol said.
Committee member Wesley Wheeler, director of safety for the National Electrical Contractors Association, raised the question of whether OSHA would cite an employer for ill-fitting gloves if manufacturers didn’t make specialty gloves that fit the hands of a smaller- or larger-than-average worker.
No New Obligations
Vernon Preston, a staff member with OSHA’s Directorate of Construction, told the committee that OSHA has always had an implicit requirement that construction workers’ equipment must fit. However, the obligation wasn’t specifically stated.
The goal is to fix that oversight, not create new obligations, Preston said. The current rule (29 C.F.R. 1926.95(c)) says, “All personal protective equipment shall be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed.” The proposed change would add a mandate requiring gear “properly fits each affected employee” (RIN:1218-AD25). The same wording is already used in the rule covering protective gear for manufacturing (29 C.F.R. 1910.132(d)(1)(iii)).
Scott Ketchum, director of the construction directorate, said a citation for not providing equipment that fit would only be issued if the fit posed a safety hazard.