After OSHA’s update to standard 1910.269 was published, the meaning of flame resistant PPE, and specifically, how outerwear fits into this definition, has been open to interpretation – leaving many of us scratching our heads about safe and proper application. Additionally, many question whether or not OSHA 1910.269’s head-to-toe arc-rated PPE budget analysis includes EH-rated boots.
In its final rule, OSHA addresses the estimated cost to employers of its changes to standard 1910.269 regarding arc-rated FR PPE. “The Agency is basing its estimates on a cost of $1,534.00 per employee for eight sets of flame resistant clothing (using the estimated cost of $191.75 per set), or on an annualized cost of approximately $452.88 per employee. The Agency believes this final estimate is reasonable and captures the average cost of all flame resistant clothing required by the new provisions of the final standard.” (p. 287)
However, as we noted in a previous blog post, it is important to recognize that OSHA’s cost estimates are based on FR daily wear (shirts, pants and coveralls) and do not account for arc-rated outerwear or boots.
OSHA makes it very clear in its final rule that the outermost layer must be arc-rated PPE, and also that melting fabrics must be avoided altogether.
The lowest cost option for employers to satisfy this FR outer layer requirement would be to provide each employee with an FR coverall (PPE) with an arc rating equal to or greater than the estimated energy level. Such a coverall would be worn over non-melting non-FR temperature-insulating outerwear that the worker provides on his/her own. As long as an actual arc did not break-open the coverall and ignite the inner layers, this would theoretically be adequate for OSHA’s requirements.
However, the energy level of actual arc flash may vary significantly from the estimate – there are known accidents where the actual energy received by the worker was 10+ cal greater. In this case, an estimated arc of 8 cal received by a worker wearing an 8 cal coverall could actually be as much as 18 cal. This could break open the coverall and potentially ignite non-FR non-melting insulative outerwear.
Additionally, an issue with the above example of wearing a coverall over non-FR insulative garments is that today there is minimal variety of non-melting natural fiber, insulative garments available in the market. The vast majority of retail outerwear is made from polyester or other melting fiber, and it would be extremely difficult for any employer to ensure that each and every one of their workers avoids wearing melting fiber garments.
As we covered in our Key Updates to OSHA 1910.269 blog series, OSHA Directive CPL 02-01-050 further addresses upgraded and personalized PPE. This instruction, Enforcement Guidance for Personal Protective Equipment in General industry, was issued in 2011 and established OSHA’s general enforcement and guidance policy for its standards addressing personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Directive states that an employer does not have an obligation to pay for PPE requested by an employee that exceeds the PPE requirements (i.e. arc-rated outerwear), given that the employer provides PPE that meets the standards at no cost to the employee (i.e. the arc-rated coverall described above). If the employer allows the employee to acquire and use upgraded or personalized PPE, then the employer is not required to reimburse the employee for the equipment, provided that the employer has provided adequate PPE at no cost to the employee.
It’s important to note that under this Directive, an employer is still required to evaluate an employee’s upgraded or personalized PPE to ensure that it is:
This evaluation requirement for employers under the Directive is in-line with OSHA’s 1910.269 requirement stating that the employer is responsible for inspecting proper care and maintenance of FR clothing. Tyndale offers employers and employees guidance on this requirement through our Training Video.
The vast majority of utilities resolve this issue by providing a dollar-based allowance and requiring that all layers are FR (some allow 100% cotton t-shirts and inner layers worn against the skin). This allows employees to purchase their preferred combination of items so that the employee can choose clothing based on other qualities, such as comfort and fit. This solution also limits employer expense to the employee allowance amount.
As stated above, OSHA believes that the 1910.269 requirements will have a total economic impact of $452.88 per employee per year for arc-rated PPE. Therefore, a yearly allowance of $455 per employee would cover the employer cost of providing PPE to its workforce in line with OSHA’s own expectations. Additionally, an allowance program for FR clothing provides employers with a way to track exactly what clothing was provided to every employee – creating a record of proof that sufficient FR clothing has been provided.
As Tyndale outlined in our post on OSHA’s new Full Body Protection Requirement against Arc Hazards, “Arc-rated protection is not necessary for the employee’s feet when the employee is wearing heavy-duty work shoes or boots.” The OSHA 1910.132 PPE standard addresses payment for these boots in (h)(2), “The employer is not required to pay for non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or steel-toe boots)… provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the job site.” However, if the employer requires EH-rated boots or dielectric overshoes, the employer may be required to pay for these items as PPE. (l)(8)(v)(B)
When you look at other standards, EH-rated boots may be required under OSHA’s General Duty Clause. The General Duty Clause requires that employers provide a workplace to employees that are free from known hazards. This clause is intended to be all-encompassing, ensuring that employees have a safe work environment. If the hazard analysis determines that EH-rated boots are necessary to protect workers from a shock hazard, those boots would be considered PPE under the General Duty Clause.
In fact, many electric utilities require their workers to wear EH-rated boots. In contrast, NFPA 70E-2015 has a provision for heavy-duty leather work shoes for any task with an estimated energy level of 4 cal (HRC/PPE Category 1) or higher, but stops short of requiring EH-rated boots.
The most reliable solution to ensure worker safety is to partner with an FR supplier that can provide answers and resources helping you navigate these industry standards. There are a broad variety of boots available on the market; many of these boots are EH-rated and meet the specifications of ASTM F2412 and F2413, the most recent standards for footwear.
Tyndale can develop a boot program to meet the needs of any organization requiring foot protection for their employees. Tyndale offers a variety of boots, including composite toe that are EH-rated and labeled to meet ASTM F2412, as well as boots with steel toe and without steel toe.
Tyndale’s standard boot program offers two options for workers to purchase boots:
Since OSHA’s estimated cost to employers of the updated standard 1910.269, at approximately $455 per employee, does not include the cost of protective footwear, employers will want to consider increasing yearly allowance amounts to compensate for this additional PPE cost.
Click here more information on Tyndale’s boot program or visit our Foot Protection Q&A on www.tyndaleusa.com. Additionally, you can Contact your Tyndale National Account Manager to discuss how you can add boots to your FR clothing program or to further discuss staying safe with proper FR outerwear.