Loren Kean Law

Loren Kean Law

Loren Kean Law

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Updated Guidance for Employers on OSHA Liability for PPE Violations Joshua B. Loren, Kyle W. Ohlenschlaeger and Bruce E. Loren | Oct 20 2020

After a recent decision by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, employers may be liable under the Occupational Safety and Health Act when they do not require employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) during assigned work. Employers can be held liable, despite having no knowledge of any dangerous conditions.

In Jacobs Field Services North America Inc. v. Scalia, an apprentice electrician was assigned to work on an electrical box. The employee initially wore all of the appropriate PPE when de-energizing the side of the box being worked on. After confirming his side of the box was de-energized, the employee removed his PPE to continue working. The employee’s supervisor requested that he perform some additional work on the box, but did not inspect the electrical box or the work already performed. Because the side of the box the employee had been working on was still de-energized, the employee did not put on his PPE. While performing the assigned work, the employee caused an uninsulated wire on the energized side of the box to move, triggering an arc flash that caused severe burns to his hands and face.

The Occupational Safety and Health Agency cited the employer for failure to ensure the use of proper PPE in a hazardous work area. The employer appealed the citation, partially on the grounds that it was unaware of the unsafe conditions.

The appeals court upheld the OSHA citation against the employer, noting that: “standards of industry conduct required management to instruct employees to be alert for changes in a task that might lead to…unsafe working conditions.” A failure to inspect for dangerous conditions would not absolve an employer from liability.

Practical Tips for Employers

  • Before any work begins, supervisors must first inspect the work area to identify potential hazards.
  • Supervisors must provide the appropriate PPE to employees for the task they are assigned.
  • Supervisors must ensure that employees are actually using the PPE as instructed.
  • Most importantly, Supervisors must continue to inspect the work area for any changing conditions, and provide additional PPE to any employees as needed.


This is only a general guide to some of the OSHA requirements for employers. If you have any specific questions concerning OSHA requirements or violations do not hesitate to contact an attorney experienced in employment law.

Joshua B. Loren, Kyle W. Ohlenschlaeger and Bruce E. Loren of Loren & Kean Law are based in Palm Beach Gardens and Ft. Lauderdale. Loren & Kean Law is a boutique law firm concentrating in construction law and employment law. Mr. Joshua Loren focuses his practice on labor and employment law, only representing the interests of employers and business owners. The firm represents businesses in a wide range of disputes, including OSHA investigations and citation contests, DOL investigations, discrimination claims, and state and federal wage litigation. They can be reached at jloren@lorenkeanlaw.com, kohlenschlaeger@lorenkeanlaw.com or bloren@lorenkeanlaw.com or 561-615-5701.