The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a ruling requiring employers to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees.

The rule is a basic requirement that codifies OSHA’s long-standing policy that it is an employer’s responsibility to pay the cost of protecting workers from safety and health hazards. The rule states employers must pay for items such as hard hats, goggles, face shields, chemical resistant suits, respirators, safety glasses and welding helmets.

“It is unfortunate that nine years have passed since the rule was proposed, and that it took a lawsuit by the unions and Congressional intervention before the Bush Administration would act,“ said John Sweeney, AFL-CIO president in a statement. “America’s working men and women deserve the proper equipment to keep them safe on the job, each and every day.”

“Workers have spoken out for this rule and now Congress and the courts have forced the Department of Labor (DOL) to act. Our members will be watching to see this rule is enforced in every workplace,” added Joseph Hansen, UFCW international president in a statement. “Workers should no longer be required to dip into their own pocket to keep themselves safe from harm at work.”

The ruling must be implemented by May 15, 2008 and will affect distributors that are not already providing safety equipment for their warehouse employees. However, OSHA estimates that employers are currently paying for 95 percent of personal protective equipment costs already.

“We already offer our employees gloves and ear protection,” said Jeannie Murphy of Murphy Sales, Tulsa, Okla. “The ruling is not going to effect us as much because we already provide that type of equipment to our employees.

“We talk about how important it is to wear the protective equipment during training,” Murphy continues. “It is up to them whether they wear it, but it is our commitment to them to provide the equipment.”

The rule does have exemptions for employer payment requirements. Some include: non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear, rain suits, non-specialty prescription safety eye wear, sunglasses, sunscreen, back belts, long sleeve shirts, long pants and some dust masks or respirators.

Uniforms, caps or other clothing worn to identify a person as an employee is not considered PPE. Items worn to keep employees clean for purposes unrelated to safety or health are not considered to be PPE. Other items such as denim coveralls, aprons or other apparel, when worn solely to prevent clothing and/or skin from becoming soiled, are also not valid.

Employers do not have to provide any personal protective equipment if none was required before and do not have to cover the charges of anything an employee loses or damages intentionally.

The rule requires employers to provide the equipment, but it is the employee’s choice whether they want to wear it.

“We try to help our employees understand their rights,” Murphy said. “It is something we want our employees to be so familiar with. It is important for them to know what rights they have as employees.”

Besides having to pay for all PPE that is required for employees in their own warehouse, the ruling might amount to distributors selling more PPE to end users. Building service contractors and in-house service providers require PPE, especially when cleaning healthcare and industrial facilities. Now business owners and cleaning departments will have to buy PPE rather than having employees supply their own.

Michigan Service Tax Repealed After 16 Hours
A six percent service tax went into effect in Michigan December 1 on warehousing services.

The bill was killed seven hours later.

The bill called for a six percent tax placed on a number of services including warehousing, something imperative to distributors.

The short-lived tax was introduced in October, but since that time the state legislature did little to show business owners how much of a percent certain jobs would be taxed as opposed to others.

The tax left many distributors confused, including Tom DeVoogd, owner of A.C. Supply Inc. in Fraser, Mich.

“I’ve talked to people from the state and they have not been able to give me an idea of how things will be taxed,” said DeVoogd before the tax was repealed.

The reason the bill was passed originally was because the Michigan State Senate and House of Representatives could not reached a decision on how to repeal the tax. The senate called for a short-term fix where the bill would expire in December 2010. The house version replaces the revenue without a set amount of money.

While some distributors were fretting over the headaches and confusion the bill would cause, David Lewandowski of Michigan Maintenance Supply Co., Warren, Mich., felt it could have forced changes for certain companies.

“Those marginal businesses will find the requirements enough to get out of the business. Those who are good may not like it, but they will get over the hurdle and handle it. If anything it might legitimize the business.”

Instead of having to deal with the six percent tax, a 21.9 percent surcharge was added to the new Michigan Business tax, which takes effect January 1. The tax could be phased out between 2014 and 2017 depending on the growth of personal income throughout the state.

Two ISSA Shows Occupy Fall Months
Fall has been a busy period for distributors with two successful ISSA events occupying the autumn months.

ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America 2007 was held October 23-26 in Orlando, Fla. A total of 5,272 distributors turned out for the event, roughly the same amount as last year’s show in Chicago. Surveys from the event revealed more than half of the distributor visitors were members of industry buying or marketing groups.

Thirty percent of the distributors in attendance were from southeastern states, with more than 1,500 coming from Florida and Georgia.

The show also afforded distributors the opportunity to spend more time walking the show floor than in the past. Thirty-six percent of distributors polled said they spent more time on the show floor this year than in previous years.

“One of our main goals this year was to expand the time spent between attendees and exhibitors on the show floor,” said John Garfinkel, ISSA executive director in a statement. “Many exhibitors felt the positive impact of our efforts, saying the right companies were in attendance and the floor felt busier this year.”

Based on the results of the 2007 show, 107 new exhibitors have signed up to participate in next year’s show. More than 90 percent of 2008 show space was sold by the end of show week.

Coming off the success of the North America show, ISSA hosted The Cleaning Industry in 2010 symposium in Kassel, Germany.

The symposium took place on October 30 and was organized by ISSA European Board of Representatives’ German representative Gunter Glockner.

Topics discussed included innovation in the industry, surface technology and the future, and winning new clients.

“This symposium facilitated discussion about the industry as a whole as well as the ways ISSA can help members achieve their business goals looking toward the future,” said Mark Armitage, ISSA director of European services in a statement.

Green Seal Proposes Revision Of GS-37
Green Seal is in the process of revising GS-37, the Environmental Standard for Industrial and Institutional Cleaners and seeks public review and input on the proposed revisions. The aim of the revision is to maintain the leadership level of the standard, which involves bringing the standard up-to-date so it more adequately represents current technology available in the market, and to ensure that the standard fully protects vulnerable populations such as children. The Proposed Revised Standard is now available for public review and Green Seal welcomes comment from the public through an open and transparent process that aims to achieve consensus among all stakeholders. Comments will be submitted through an online forum system at

The Proposed Revised Standard is open for comment until January 16, 2008. The forum will be closed for comments after January 16th, and no additional comments will be accepted after this date. The Proposed Revised Standard, along with a background document providing information about the proposed changes, is available at

Credentialing Organization Launched For Green Building
A newly incorporated entity, the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), has been established with the support of the U.S. Green Building Council to administer credentialing programs related to green building practice and standards. GBCI was created to develop and administer credentialing programs aimed at improving green building practice.

“Credentialing programs support the application of proven strategies for increasing and measuring the performance of buildings and communities as defined by industry systems such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating Systems,” said Peter Templeton, vice president of education and research, U.S. Green Building Council, in a statement.

GBCI will ensure that the LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) program will continue to be developed in accordance with best practices for credentialing programs. To underscore this commitment, GBCI will undergo the ANSI accreditation process for personnel certification agencies complying with ISO Standard 17024.

In January 2008, USGBC will transfer responsibility for the ongoing administration of the LEED Professional Accreditation program to GBCI; GBCI will manage all aspects of the LEED AP program including exam development, registration and delivery. GBCI will also oversee the development of the maintenance program for LEED AP credential holders.


MRSA Is A Common Infection
A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that methicillin-resistant staphyloccus aureus (MRSA), also known as the superbug, strikes 31.8 out of every 100,000 Americans, making it more common than flesh-eating strep infections, bacterial pneumonia and meningitis combined. 94,000 serious infections and 19,000 deaths each year can be attributed to the disease, making it more deadly than AIDS.

Ecolab Purchases Microtek Medical Holdings Inc.
Ecolab Inc.,St. Paul, Minn., has purchased Microtek Medical Holdings Inc., of Alpharetta Ga. Microtek manufactures and markets infection control products for healthcare and acute care facilities and specializes in infection barrier equipment drapes, patient drapes, fluid control products and operating room cleanup systems.

Cigarette Litter Down 54 Percent
Keep America Beautiful (KAB) reports that there has been an average nationwide reduction of cigarette litter of 54 percent — a 6 percent improvement from 2006 — in the communities implementing the KAB Cigarette Litter Prevention Program.

Los Angeles County To Incorporate Green Products
Los Angeles County has enlisted Green Seal to assist the County in the development of a broad-based green procurement program — helping them incorporate green specifications to buy green products in priority categories with a five-year schedule of implementation. A wide range of product categories will be covered, including cleaning supplies and paper products.