Regulations (Preambles to Final Rules) - Table of Contents
• Record Type: Personal Protective Equipment for General Industry
• Section: 1
• Title: Section 1 - I. Background

I. Background

The existing OSHA standards for personal protective equipment (PPE) are contained in Subpart I of OSHA's general industry standards. These standards were adopted in 1971 from established Federal standards and national consensus standards.

In developing a proposed revision of Subpart I, the Agency performed a comprehensive review of the PPE standards. This review revealed several limitations and concerns with respect to these standards. First, OSHA determined that many of the existing PPE standards were outdated since they reflected knowledge and practices regarding PPE as they existed in the late 1960's and early 1970's. This meant that employers were being required to explain how compliance with more recent editions of the pertinent consensus standards provides equivalent protection to that provided by the older editions in the OSHA standards.

Second, the Agency determined that there were certain gaps in coverage of the PPE standards, and that the standards set very restrictive design criteria which might limit the use of new technology. OSHA was concerned that restraints on innovation might also make it more difficult for employers either to increase acceptance of PPE, or to provide more protective PPE. Recognizing this situation, the Agency established a process under which OSHA has accepted, for example, on a case-by-case basis, the use of eye protection which, while not designed to meet the specifications in the existing standards, had been demonstrated to provide equivalent or superior worker protection. The Agency determined, however, that this process could not keep pace with the development of improved PPE. Consequently, OSHA was concerned that, unless the PPE standards were revised to be more performance-oriented, employers and product manufacturers might be discouraged from improving their equipment and from providing improved protection to workers.

Also, OSHA had obtained injury data and technical reports which showed that injuries were occu