Be Wary of OSHA “Approved” PPE

OSHA’s long-standing position is that it does not approve or endorse particular products.  Moreover, the determination of compliance with OSHA’s standards cannot be based on an evaluation of the equipment or devices alone. Rather, this determination must consider factors related to the use of such devices at a worksite and should include an evaluation, through direct observation, of employee work practices and conditions of use in the workplace. See OSHA Standard Interpretation dated September 15, 1993, which can be found here.

In September 2019, OSHA reiterated its position that OSHA does not “register, certify, approve, or otherwise endorse commercial or private sector entities, products, or services” in a subsequent Standard Interpretation found here.

The 2019 Standard Interpretation specifically noted that any such claims by a manufacturer are misleading which addressed the use of headphones on a construction worksite.

Of course, this does not mean all equipment including PPE is equal. For example, OSHA requires that many categories of PPE meet or be equivalent to standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Thus, employers who need to provide PPE in certain categories must make certain that the PPE meets the cited ANSI standard, e.g., ANSI Z89.1-1986 for head protection. However, as mentioned above, compliance with PPE standards requires additional action such as the hazard assessment and training employees on the proper use of PPE. As a reminder, OSHA publication 3151-12R 2004 provides helpful guidance on PPE compliance for employers found here.

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