PPE and the State of California: What Can I be Reimbursed For?
Personal Protective Equipment, more commonly known by the abbreviation PPE, is something we’ve all undoubtedly come to know far more than we ever expected after the events of 2020. However, with so many changes both legally and morally, at the federal and state level, in what is expected of us in the workplace, there are still many questions left unclear in the minds of workers. The most common being what is my responsibility to obtain and what can I be reimbursed for from my company in the state of California?
What is Personal Protective Equipment in the Workplace
The United States Department of Labor defines personal protective equipment as “equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses“. While me may think solely of face masks/shields, gloves, hand sanitizers, plexiglass shields, and goggles as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the actual list is far longer and includes a variety of items necessary to keep workers safe in different fields. Including:
- Certain types of shoes
- Earplugs or muffs
- Hard hats
- Respirators or coveralls
- Vests and full body suits
What are the Responsibilities of my Employer?
California’s workplace safety standards require employers to pay for all forms of PPE their employees require, so long as it is a form of PPE which the law demands they have since 1979. There are similar requirements laid out under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. In short, if the law says you need to wear it while on the jobsite, it is your employer’s responsibility to provide it to you free of charge. Even if an employee already owns the required PPE independently, an employer must make sure that it is up to regulation and adequate to protect the worker from hazards in the workplace.
What Kinds of PPE am I Responsible For?
It may seem cut and dry, therefore, that any and all PPE you will need on the job will be provided to you, but it isn’t that simple. Take, for example, the argument of non-slip shoes. In 2019 a state appeals court ruled that employers are not required to pay for non-specialty, slip-resistant shoes if they can be worn as ordinary and regular clothing. Since the shoes were not specific to the job at question, and they could be worn outside the workplace environment, they were not the legal responsibility of the company’s but rather the employee. This ruling and ones similar to it, also apply to things such as long sleeve shirts or pants, skin items to protect against the sun, hair nets, or PPE items which an employee has lost or intentionally damaged.
Understand PPE Responsibilities in the Era of Covid-19
So where does this leave you during the era of Covid-19? As an essential worker, the state of California requires your employer to provide you with a variety of updated personal protective equipment depending upon your job description.
Face Masks – All employees must be provided face coverings when they are working inside or within 6 feet of another person if outside. Cloth face masks must be washed between use and non-cloth ones must be replaced.
Gloves, Safety Glasses, and Face Shields – These forms of PPE are not necessarily required by the state but are instead dependent upon the situation and the risk of hazard to employees.
Know Your Rights
We here at Aiman-Smith & Marcy understand that the new normal we are living in is confusing and difficult to keep up with. Changing regulations and unclear guidelines have plagued us from the start of this pandemic, even if you’ve done your best to keep pace, you may still be confused about your own responsibilities as an employee and your employer’s responsibilities to you. If you feel you are entitled to better protection under the law from your employer, we’re here to listen to you and to represent you. You deserve to be safe in your workplace, we all do.