Personal protective equipment (abbreviated PPE) is the collective term used to describe equipment worn by employees to reduce the chance of injury and illness. Some of the most commonly used types of PPE include rubber gloves, safety goggles, hardhats, earplugs, ventilation masks, respirators and welding helmets.
The official Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website states the following in regards to PPE:
“All personal protective equipment should be of safe design and construction, and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. It should fit well and be comfortable to wear, encouraging worker use. If the personal protective equipment does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed. “
After reading through the OSHA’s standards on PPE, you might be wondering who is responsible for footing the bill. After all, purchasing all of the previously mentioned equipment for dozens or even hundreds of employees can cost a pretty penny. So, does the employer pay for PPE or is the employee responsible for buying their own the PPE?
Employers Must Purchase Their Employees’ PPE
Yep, employers are now required to purchase their their employees’ PPE. On May 15, 2008, a new OSHA rule went into effect which requires employers to foot the bill for PPE. Before this time, it was up the employer whether or not they wanted to pay for PPE. The OSHA deemed that because it was a necessity for creating a safe workplace, employers should be responsible for buying their employees’ PPE.
The good news is that employers can write off PPE as a business expense on their taxes.
Can Employees Buy Their Own PPE?
Technically, employees can still purchase their own PPE, but their employer is responsible for reimbursing the cost. It’s not uncommon for employers to hand out a list of PPE to their new employees, asking them to purchase the items on their own time. This is done to make the process of finding fitted items more easily. For instance, it’s obviously easier for an employee to purchase his or her boots rather than their employer. As long the employee keeps a receipt, they are entitled to reimbursement from their employer.
Note: if an employee buys their own PPE, the employer is responsible for checking to make sure it’s OSHA-compliant and falls within the standards set forth by the organization.