Scenario: An employer requires ordinary safety-toe footwear throughout their facilities and pays for the first $100 of the footwear cost. As part of a recent company-wide static electricity control program, employees working with flammable liquids and products are now required to have static dissipative safety-toe footwear.
Question 1: Would the static dissipative safety-toe footwear be considered specialty footwear? Is the employer required to provide the static dissipative safety-toe footwear at no cost to its employees?
Reply: Static dissipative safety-toe footwear that meets the specifications and test methods for static dissipative (SD) footwear in ANSI 241-1991, “American National Standard for Personal Protection – Protective Footwear,” would be considered specialty footwear. This footwear provides additional protection to the employee beyond that of an ordinary safety-toe shoe and is designed for special use on the job. Therefore, the employer would be required to provide this footwear at no cost to employees.
The PPE standard provides that “[t]he employer is not required to pay for non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or steel-toe boots) … provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the job-site.” 29 CFR 1910.132(h)(2). As OSHA explained in the Final Rule for Employer Payment for PPE, “Exempted footwear provides the protection of an ordinary safety-toe shoe or boot, while footwear with additional safety attributes beyond this (e.g., shoes and boots with special soles) fall under the employer payment requirement.” The Agency also said that, “[t]he term ‘non-specialty’ is used to indicate that the footwear … being exempted is not of a type designed for special use on the job (e.g. rubber steel-toe shoes).” 72 Federal Register 64342, 64348 (Nov. 15, 2007).
Question 2: If the employer allows its employees to wear the static dissipative safety-toe footwear off-site (for personal use), would the employer be exempt from full payment for this footwear?
Reply: No. Since this specialty footwear is required for the job, the employer is required to provide it at no cost to the employee. This is still the case if the employer allows employees to use the footwear off the job.