Support through your toughest HR challenges: A network of 285,000 HR professionals.
Shawn Premer shows how doing the right thing for employees leads to positive business results.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 12 cities across the U.S. this spring.
#SHRM18 will expand your perspective – on your organization, on your career, and on the way you approach HR. Join us in Chicago June 17-20, 2018
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
Employers in the restaurant, delicatessen and grocery industries frequently ask whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand protection regulations require the use of cut-resistant gloves for employees who work with knives or slicers. Some employers have even reported that OSHA representatives have told them that the use of cut-resistant gloves is mandatory for employees working with knives in food service. Whether food service employees in kitchens, delicatessens or grocery stores are required to wear cut-resistant gloves, however, is not as clear-cut as OSHA has apparently been suggesting.
What is clear is that OSHA’s PPE standards are “performance-based” standards, not “specification” standards. That means that the PPE standards do not proscribe specific PPE for specific circumstances. Rather, the standards defer to employers’ reasonable judgment about what PPE is necessary, for which employees, in which circumstances.
The applicable standard, 29 CFR
“Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.”
1910.138(a) is part of a series of standards regarding PPE for various parts of the body that stem from a general PPE requirement set forth at
1910.132(d)(1), which provides that:
Employers “shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).”
Under the plain language of these regulations, and a long history of enforcement policies and Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission case law, if employers perform a good-faith hazard assessment in connection with the work activities and equipment at their workplace, and they conclude based on that assessment that employees are not exposed to laceration/amputation hazards or that cut-resistant gloves are not appropriate PPE, and the conclusion is reasonable, then no citation should issue.
July 3, 1995, Interpretation Letter issued by OSHA confirms this view of the PPE standards:
“What the employer is required to do is to perform a hazard assessment, and OSHA would expect that an employer will be particularly careful before considering that none of its employees in the listed occupations are exposed to hazards which necessitated the use of PPE. In litigation, of course, it would be OSHA’s burden to prove that a hazard assessment was not done. OSHA also believes that a standard of objective reasonableness is implicit in the requirement, and that accordingly, OSHA could cite for an unreasonable assessment. Again, the burden of proof would be on OSHA.”
Factors that will impact the reasonableness of an employer’s hazard assessment include:
Eric J. Conn is the head of the OSHA Practice Group at Epstein, Becker, Green’s Washington, D.C., office.
Republished with permission. © 2013 Epstein, Becker, Green.
Safety & Security page
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Talent Attraction Study: What Matters to the Modern Candidate
HR Education in a City Near You
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies