March 6, 2007

UFCW Lauds the Protective Equipment for America

Washington, DCThe United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) applauds and supports the ‘‘Protective Equipment for America’s Workers Act,’’ introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The Act, also known as H.R. Bill 1327, sponsored by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Congressman George Miller (D-CA), seeks to require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to complete its rulemaking on Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for workers.  This Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule would require employers to pay the costs of protective clothing, lifelines, face shields, gloves and other equipment used by an estimated 20 million workers to protect them from job hazards.

For nearly eight years, OSHA has failed to issue a standard requiring employers to pay for PPE.   The rule was first announced in 1997 and proposed in 1999 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after a ruling by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission that OSHA’s existing PPE standard could not be interpreted to require employers to pay for protective equipment.  In 1999, OSHA promised to issue the final PPE rule in July 2000.  But it missed that deadline and has missed every self-imposed deadline since.  The agency has failed to act in response to a 2003 petition by the AFL-CIO and UFCW and numerous requests by the Hispanic Congressional Caucus.

By OSHA’s own estimates, 400,000 workers have been injured and 50 have died due to the absence of this rule.   The labor groups say that workers in some of America’s most dangerous industries, such as meatpacking, poultry and construction, and low-wage and immigrant workers who suffer high injury rates, are vulnerable to being forced by their employers to pay for their own safety gear because of OSHA’s failure to finish the PPE rule.

“”Nothing is standing in the way of OSHA issuing a final PPE rule to protect worker safety and health except the will to do so.   It is long overdue that the agency takes action on protective equipment.  The time has come to force OSHA to act,”” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President.