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Who Pays For Industrial Safety Items: Employer Or Employee?

When working in any kind of industrial environment, it’s essential for the wellbeing and safety of all workers (and visitors) that they’re given the appropriate safety gear, and are instructed as to how exactly to wear it, and when. In some instances, the safety items are conducive to them being able to fulfil their role successfully and carry out what has been asked of them.

While some companies cover the cost of safety equipment and clothing for their employees, others require that employees themselves bear the cost. Naturally, for those employers who supply their workers with safety gear, should the employee lose or damage them, the company will be responsible for bearing the cost of replacing them.

As an industrial employer, if you’re asking your employees to cover the cost of their own safety equipment and clothing, you must make sure you stick to the appropriate guidelines and labor laws, which can be strict. But can an employer force their workers to buy safety gear?

What safety items can an employer ask their workers to pay for?

Employers are able to request that an employee covers the cost of safety equipment while working for them, but the guidelines as laid out by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), don’t permit you to charge them for the cost of certain items of protective clothing, like gloves and goggles. While you’re able to request that they pay for them, you aren’t able to demand it of them.

If an employee refuses to pay for items of safety equipment that an employer is allowed to request them to buy, then it’s the employers responsibility to decide upon the appropriate course of action.

What about replacing safety equipment that’s damaged?

Should an employee happen to break or damage an item of safety equipment by accident, you are not permitted to ask them to replace it at their own cost. Instead, you must accept that accidents happen, and that it is a business expense. If the employee was grossly negligent, however, or intentionally damaged the equipment, you may be able to demand that they pay for a replacement. That said, without reliable evidence (such as video footage) of the employee’s actions, there’s not much you can do about the situation unless they admit to doing it, in which case you can force them to pay for new equipment. 

What does the Fair Labor Standards Act say about safety equipment?

Employees can be charged for safety equipment that would otherwise be counted as a company expense, under the FLSA, but if the expenses were responsible for the employee’s earnings for that pay period to fall below the minimum wage, then you must pay for any safety equipment required. Under the guidelines provided by OSHA concerning PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), employees cannot be charged for any safety items that are essential for them to be able to fulfil their role safely and efficiently, such as goggles and gloves.

What should you do when asking an employee to purchase safety equipment?

Employees should be given advance notification if they’re required to purchase their own safety equipment, so that they can be made aware not just of their responsibility, but of the cost. The circumstances under which they are being asked to pay for it should be clearly outlined in the document, and once signed, a copy of it should be kept in the employees file.

If you need to purchase industrial safety items for your employees to keep them safe while at work, there are plenty of great online retailers who will enable you to get stocked up as required.