OSHA Review Commission establishes precedent

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Review Commission has ruled that under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, an employer not only must provide eye protection for workers, but it also must ensure employees wear the protective equipment.

On Jan. 10, 2011, an OSHA compliance officer conducted an inspection of Custom Built Marine Construction at a job site where the company was renovating a boat ramp. The compliance officer saw a Custom Built Marine Construction employee using an electric jackhammer to chip away part of a concrete bulkhead while his supervisor stood nearby observing the work. The compliance officer observed pieces of concrete flying in the air while the employee operated the jackhammer, and neither the employee nor the supervisor were wearing eye protection; however, two pairs of protective eyewear were available on-site.

Following the inspection, OSHA issued the company a citation alleging a serious violation of 29 C.F.R. § 1926.102(a)(1), the construction industry standard for eye and face protection equipment, which states: "Employees shall be provided with eye and face protection equipment when machines or operations present potential eye or face injury from physical, chemical, or radiation agents."