Companies may have to force employees to use safety equipment

If an employee is going to be working in hazardous conditions, does the employer merely have to provide appropriate safety equipment … or does it have to actually force the employee to use it?

The latter, according to the OSHA Review Commission.

The case involved a marine contractor in Florida that was renovating a boat ramp. An employee of the contractor was observed using a jackhammer on concrete without wearing goggles or earplugs.

OSHA wanted to fine the employer, but a judge sided with the contractor. The employee in question testified that the company had offered him safety equipment, and that he could have easily accessed it nearby if he felt he needed it, but that he didn’t believe it was necessary.

Not so fast – the Commission overruled the judge and imposed a fine. According to the Commission, an employer has a duty not just to provide safety equipment, but also to ensure that workers use it when it’s appropriate, even if they object.

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