On March 16, 2015, OSHA issued an Interpretation Letter allowing construction contractors to require workers to pay a deposit for company-issued personal protection equipment, such as fall prevention harnesses. The deposit requirement, however, cannot circumvent the requirement that employers provide protection equipment at no expense to the workers. The letter clarifies the requirements of the 2007 final rule, Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (72 Fed. Reg. 64,342), concerning whether deposits are allowed and other measures employers can take to ensure company-provided gear is returned when a worker leaves the company or that the company is reimbursed if a worker doesn’t return the equipment.
OSHA explains that, while deposits are allowed, a deposit “must not be administered in a fashion that circumvents the rule and results in an employee involuntarily paying for his or her PPE.” Accordingly, an employer may require a worker to return the equipment at the end of his or her employment. “If the employee does not return the employer’s equipment, nothing in the final rule prevents the employer from requiring the employee to pay for it or take reasonable steps to retrieve the PPE in a manner that does not conflict with federal, state or local laws.” Also, upon return of the PPE, an employer is not allowed to charge for wear and tear to equipment that is related to the job. Lastly, the letter explained, that employers can’t force workers to purchase PPE that must be provided at no cost.