In an interpretation letter dated June 1, 2015, OSHA answered the question “Under OSHA regulations 29 CFR 1926.95(a) who is responsible for the laundering of fire retarding clothing that is provided to employees?” The section states that protective equipment “shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition” but does not elaborate on how this should be achieved.
The letter clarifies that the standard does not per se prohibit home laundering of FR and arc-rated clothing. However, the employer is responsible for making sure that laundering does not compromise the protective properties of the clothing. According to the letter, “If employers rely on home laundering of the clothing, they must train their employees in proper laundering procedures and techniques, and employers must inspect the clothing on a regular basis to ensure that it is not in need of repair or replacement. If an employer cannot meet these conditions, then the employer is responsible for laundering the FR and arc-rated clothing.” Practically speaking, home laundering is a risky proposition. If an employer is unwilling or unable to comply with the requirements for home laundering, then the employer is responsible for laundering the FR and arc-rated clothing.