Issues

Right to Repair

To ensure the safety of the nation’s workers as well as product performance, certification, and compliance, Right to Repair legislation must exempt all PPE and safety equipment.

The Issue

Modern PPE and safety equipment meet demanding federal or consensus standards that include rigorous testing to ensure the equipment delivers its intended health and safety-sustaining functions. Such safety devices require specialized, high-performance components. In fact, these components are selected after extensive evaluation, including evaluation of the component manufacturer’s quality management systems. In addition, these components and parts are not available on the open market.

"ISEA applauds the intention behind Right to Repair legislation. However, 125 million U.S. workers require PPE and safety equipment that's guaranteed to perform exactly as designed, tested and certified."
Dan Glucksman
Senior Director, Policy
ISEA

Right to Repair legislation in certain cases conflicts with existing Federal workplace safety and product certification regulations.

Federal, state, and local Right to Repair legislation implementation could result in products losing their federal certification or compliance with a consensus standard. For example, a respiratory protective device approved by NIOSH will lose its approval if a part that is not approved by the approval-holder is used (the same is true for products with NFPA approvals.) OSHA regulations require NIOSH-approved respirators when respirators are needed to keep workers safe. A non-NIOSH-approved respirator used in an occupational setting will constitute an OSHA violation.

Use of non-OEM parts, or improper repair conducted by non-authorized repair personnel could undermine the proper performance of the equipment and pose a risk to users.

Service people performing service without training are more likely to use parts other than OEM-supplied parts and therefore potentially compromise performance and product certifications. If lesser-performing components or replacement parts were to be used, the completed item likely would not operate as intended, negatively affecting its protective factors, original product certifications and potentially leading to a worker injury, illness or fatality. For example, portable gas detection sensors must periodically be replaced (and regularly calibrated) in order to ensure their accuracy in detecting toxic gases and oxygen-deficient environments. Improper repair or use of incorrect parts or sensors poses a catastrophic risk to workers. Further, many gas detection devices have third-party certifications from UL, Factory Mutual and other such organizations, as required by the National Electrical Code. Such approvals include strict provisions for repair only by authorized technicians. A repair or sensor replacement by an unauthorized technician would void the product certification.

For the nearly 8 million construction workers working at heights, the Self-Retracting Lifelines that comprise their fall protection PPE literally make the difference between life and death. Performance of the Self-Retracting Lifeline depends on all of component parts working together correctly, which demands compatibility. For example, friction plate material is uniquely formulated by each manufacturer, so that it performs in a specific way. If the material of the friction plate is changed (even if the dimensions are identical) through installation of a non-OEM part, the ‘coefficient of friction’ between the mating surfaces also changes, which could lead to serious injury or even death. This is true for other components, including the Belleville washer or brake spring. It is strongly recommended to follow and use spare parts provided by the manufacturer while performing repair of the units. Finally, even if an unaffiliated service person installs a compatible replacement part, without sufficient training they could improperly set the tension of a brake mechanism of a Self-Retracting Lifeline, which would leave the worker at severe risk of injury or death from a fall.

Risk of injury or death to non-Authorized repair personnel due to a lack of adequate training in handling high-risk components.

Some PPE or safety equipment have fragilities and special handling in the original manufacturing process that can be compromised once sealed components are broken or otherwise mishandled. Improper handling of this type of PPE could lead to a repairperson’s serious injury or death, in addition to operational risk from use of unapproved parts and unauthorized repair. For example, Self-Retracting Lifelines for personal fall protection encase coils and springs with extremely high tension, and knife-like edges. If handled by a service technician who has not undergone the appropriate training on servicing SRLs from that particular manufacturer or who is not using the specifically-designed tools required to safely do the job, there is a serious risk of injury or death to the repair person.

Traceability of PPE and safety equipment manufacture, service and repair records would be negatively impacted.

OSHA requires workplaces to keep records of serious work-related injuries and illnesses. In the event of any workplace accident, it is vital to have access to complete records for a particular piece of PPE or safety equipment (e.g. date of manufacture, testing and certification records, date first put into service, maintenance or calibration records, detailed repair records including any replacement parts or components, etc.) This will enable employers to demonstrate compliance with applicable job safety requirements and keep their workers employees safe.

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