Saying that “back belts may have protective effects in certain industrial settings, such as sudden, unexpected loading of the spine,” OSHA in its new ergonomics rule has decided not to prohibit classifying back belts as personal protective equipment. “Evidence for the effectiveness of back belts, although limited, exceeds that available for other types of equipment that workers wear that is classified as personal protective equipment (such as palm pads and knee pads),” according to the agency.

Permitting back belts to be used as PPE means that employers must provide them to workers at no cost, if they choose to provide them. The standard allows employers to use PPE to supplement other controls (engineering, work practice, administrative), but PPE cannot be used alone if other controls are feasible.

Wrist splints, wrist braces, and back braces are post-injury devices used to speed rehabilitation, according to OSHA, and are not considered PPE under the ergo rule.