In a move widely applauded by both employer and employee groups, OSHA has updated its general industry and maritime personal protective equipment (PPE) standards to specifically allow the use of certain PPE designed according to current national consensus standards. OSHA’s final rule, “Updating OSHA Standards Based on National Consensus Standards; Personal Protective Equipment,” will bring greater certainty to compliance with OSHA’s PPE standards for head, eye, and foot protection and further encourage use of the latest protective technology. This final rule is the third in a series of updates OSHA is making to its rules to reflect the latest versions of national consensus standards.

With this final rule, employers are expressly allowed to use head, eye, and foot protection built in accordance with these recent national consensus standards:

  • ANSI Z89.1-2003 for head protection;
  • ANSI Z87.1-2003 for eye protection; and
  • ASTM F-2412-2005 and ASTM F-2413-2005 for foot protection.

Before promulgation of this final rule, OSHA’s PPE standards required employers to provide head, eye, and foot protection built in accordance with outdated national consensus standards (e.g., the 1986 ANSI standard for head protection). This caused confusion for employers and employees as the national consensus standards were continually updated and PPE available for purchase no longer reflected the outdated design specifications. Employers who provided the latest PPE to their employees could be subject to a de minimis notice by OSHA – a technical violation of OSHA’s standards not adversely impacting the safety and health of employees. While employers are still able to use certain older equipment, as a result of this final rule, employers now can use the latest technology in head, eye, and foot protection, certain in the knowledge that they will be in compliance with OSHA’s standards.