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PPE for Employees & Texas Workers’ Rights

N95 respirator mask in brown paper bag with medical gloves and safety glasses. Concept of reusing medical equipment due to shortage from coronavirus, covid-19 worldwide pandemic

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to impact every aspect of our personal and professional lives. While one or more vaccines may be on the horizon, cases of the virus continue to surge. Essential workers still on the job are entitled to appropriate protection from their employers, just as construction workers are entitled to hard hats and gloves to avoid injury. Below, we discuss the personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements for essential workers related to coronavirus, as well as general PPE requirements for all employers in hazardous industries.

General PPE Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employers to keep workplaces safe for workers based on known health risks. Workers are entitled not only to a safe work environment but also protection from retaliation for speaking out against identified safety hazards. Depending on the industry, the precise requirements for safety may differ, but it is always the responsibility of the employer to adapt to industry standards, hazards, and requirements.

For hazardous industries, in particular, employers are required to provide appropriate personal protective equipment as well as training for all employees to appropriately utilize that equipment, and for workers to learn general safety requirements. Depending on the nature of the work, employers may be required to provide PPE including:

  • Protective masks
  • Face shields
  • Gloves
  • Bright vests
  • Hard hats and helmets
  • Goggles and other eye protection
  • Rubber boots and steel-toed boots

Employers are required to provide appropriate gear for their employees. They cannot require employees to individually bring or purchase PPE that would be necessary to protect against known safety hazards.

COVID-19 PPE Requirements

OSHA has not issued specific regulations concerning the coronavirus pandemic, although they have issued general guidance for all workers and employers. Employers should adapt infection control strategies based on hazard assessment, employ safe work practices, and provide employees with appropriate PPE.

Based on the general PPE requirement, employers in industries that are at higher risk for COVID-19 infection (healthcare, death care, airline operations, laboratories) and industries that are public-facing such as restaurants and grocery stores should offer appropriate PPE as necessary. Proper PPE includes gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection, depending on the nature of the work. Higher-risk jobs require more serious PPE. Workers in industries that are not public-facing face a lower risk, but employers should still employ appropriate safety standards including hand-washing and mask-wearing.

It is up to employers to reasonably assess the level of risk faced by employees and determine appropriate safety measures as a result. For high-risk industries, employers are required by OSHA to offer appropriate PPE. Employees may almost never be required to pay for PPE required under OSHA rules. If you contract an illness at a Texas workplace because of a lack of PPE or lax safety measures, you may have a claim against your employer. Employers may be liable for injury or illness caused to employees by the negligence of the employers, particularly if they do not carry workers’ compensation insurance.

If your safety rights have been denied in a Texas workplace, you can rely on the seasoned and effective employment attorneys at Tremain Artaza PLLC for advice and representation. Our attorneys are committed to justice and protecting the families of workers across Texas. Submit your case for our review for free online or schedule a low-cost telephone consultation with us.

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