The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) has challenged an OSHA proposed rule to regulate the use of safety eyewear and hard hats, and offered an alternative approach that ISEA says would maintain worker protection.
In comments submitted July 16, ISEA said the agency’s May 17, 2007, proposal to change the way it recognizes product performance standards for personal protective equipment (PPE) could potentially reduce the level of protection for workers and make compliance with the rule more difficult for employers.
Current OSHA regulations require that eye and head protection devices meet product performance standards issued under the banner of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). OSHA adopts specific product performance standards, which may go through several revisions before OSHA is able to update its rules to incorporate the newer versions. Under the OSHA proposal, however, references to these standards would be replaced with a vague requirement that PPE meet “good design standards.”
ISEA’s alternative would maintain the reference to the current version of the standard, and include a method by which OSHA could evaluate standards that offer equivalent protection and allow employers to use products meeting those standards.
This approach, says ISEA, gives employers the flexibility to select PPE that best meets their workers’ needs based on hazard assessment, and it allows OSHA to update references to consensus standards when they are revised and to add new product standards as they are issued without a lengthy regulatory process.
“We fully appreciate what OSHA is trying to do in this rulemaking,” said ISEA President Dan Shipp. “They aren’t able to keep up with revisions to the product standards they reference in their regulations, and they’re searching for a way to keep the rules current without having to go through a full rulemaking every few years for each standard.
“But to take those references out of the regulation, and replace them with the requirement that PPE comply with some vaguely defined good design standard shows a lack of understanding of the role of performance standards and their use in regulation.”