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Seeking clarity on what’s required for PPE

As the response to the coronavirus continues – and is fast approaching the year-long mark – it’s inevitable that question will arise regarding Personal Protective Equipment. Specifically, making sure there is clarity on what is legally required by OSHA has become a high priority for any business that has employees who need to use PPE.

A quick scan of the news media will show the back-and-forth going on concerning fines as they relate to PPE, and even though there’s definitely been some variance – and the subsequent confusion that causes – the regulations from OSHA have stayed firm throughout the coronavirus response.

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We’d like to share the most reliable information we could find on what the true PPE regulations are, hopefully bringing some focus to what every employer should know about these regulations.

One of the most exhaustive resources is Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, a publication from OSHA that goes into many scenarios. As for PPE, there’s an entire section (starting on page 14) that gives examples of what qualifies as PPE and makes it clear that "Employers are obligated to provide their workers with PPE needed to keep them safe while performing their jobs."

There’s also a clear guide to what’s required to maintain the PPE, including:

  • Basing selection on the hazard to the worker
  • Proper fitting and periodic re-fitting (especially with respirators)
  • Consistency in wearing to meet requirements
  • Regular inspections, maintenance and replacement when needed
  • Techniques to clean, store and dispose of PPE to avoid contamination concerns

OSHA also has a great COVID-19 section as part of the Safety and Health Topics subset of its main website. Among the topics is a whole area that helps employers understand how OSHA standards can apply to their specific workers, including enforcement discretion guidance, directives on enforcement, and what the workers’ rights and the employers’ responsibilities are concerning protection.

The news section of this sub-site is also an excellent resource to filter some information. Two of the more recent articles go into what some lessons employers have learned once they were cited by OSHA for PPE concerns, as well as what some of the most common citations have been. Those common concerns include:

  • The way training takes place (or doesn’t)
  • Providing proper medical evaluations of workers
  • Respirator fit testing programs
  • Improper reporting on health concerns related to work-related incidents where PPE was in use

Compliance Training Online features an OSHA PPE course that details the different types available and the reasons why they may be needed for employees, as well as the current standards. To find out more, go to our Personal Protective Equipment Online Training Course.

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