Who should pick up the tab for an employees shoes?
If you ask Robert Palmer, the administrative director for the Campbell County Commission, it would be in the county’s interest to pay for steel toe boots for county Road and Bridge Department workers to be in compliance with a new rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“That’s protection for us as well,” Palmer said, “A fine from OSHA or MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) will make that $6,000 seem like a small investment.”
But if you ask Road and Bridge Director Gary Lowry, he doesn’t think the department should invest $6,000 in boots for his workers.
As far as he’s concerned, if workers want them, they should pay for them.
Most importantly, he doesn’t want the OSHA telling the county to pick up the check — at a cost of $150 a pair.
“The feds say ‘you will do this’ and I say bull-pucky. Tell ’em to stick it,” Lowry said at a county directors meeting this week.
Regulations require the department to do a safety analysis. Any employee determined to be working in hazardous conditions would be eligible for the free pair, said the county’s Human Resources Director, Charlotte Terry.
The Human Resources Department has already set aside the $6,000, although it may not need to pay all of that if the safety analysis determines that some employees don’t need the boots.
The employees are well-paid enough to afford boots on their own, without the money coming out of the county budget, Lowry said. He would rather see the $6,000 go directly into paying employee health benefits.
Steel toe boots are already a requirement for Road and Bridge workers working with the scoria crusher. Those are MSHA’s requirements, not OSHA’s, he said.
What the rules come down to is that OSHA will require employees to wear work boots in all hazardous areas, Terry said. What constitutes hazardous can be a matter of interpretation, she said.
“It’s not black and white,” she said.
Then there are the steel toe boot requirements at the landfill and at the airport. Those boots did protect an employee’s foot when a heavy object fell on it once, Airport Director Jay Lundell said at the meeting.