California employers must now conduct an assessment of their workplaces for hazards that may require the use of certain personal protective equipment (PPE) and train employees in the use, care, and limitations of required PPE. The PPE included in the scope of the new rules are eye and face protection, foot protection, head protection, and hand protection. The new standard became effective on April 13, 2011.

The rules were originally proposed in 2010 as a result of an audit conducted by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on the effectiveness of California OSHA’s (CalOSHA) safety and health enforcement and regulatory programs. In preparing responses to the federal audit, CalOSHA realized that it had not adopted equivalent rules to the federal requirements dealing with PPE hazard assessment and training. As a result, it proposed these new requirements to ensure equivalency with federal OSHA in this area – a requirement to operate a “State-plan State” under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

Under the new rules, California employers must now assess their workplaces to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of PPE, and if such hazards are present:

  • select and have employees use the needed PPE;
  • communicate the selection decisions to affected employees; and
  • select the PPE that properly fits affected employees.

Furthermore, employers must document that the hazard assessment has been performed through a written certification that identifies the workplace evaluated, the person certifying that the evaluation has been performed, and the dates of the hazard assessment.

The rules also require that the employer train each employee who is required to use PPE on the following:

  • when PPE is necessary,
  • what PPE is necessary;
  • how to properly wear and adjust the PPE;
  • the limitations of the PPE; and
  • the proper care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of the PPE.

Each employee must demonstrate an understanding of this information and will need to be retrained where changes in the workplace render previous training obsolete, changes in the types of PPE to be used render previous training obsolete, or inadequacies in an affected employee’s knowledge or use of assigned PPE indicate that the employee does not have the required competence. As with the hazard assessment, employers are required to certify in writing that their employees have been trained.

California employers must already assess their worksites through the state’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program rule, so this added requirement may be easily incorporated into existing safety and health systems. Nevertheless, all California employers are advised to review the new requirements and their own PPE programs to ensure they are fully compliant.