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  3. US employers steel themselves against changes to PPE rules

Steel workers in the United States are trying to convince the supreme court in the country that they should be paid while putting on or taking off on their personal protective equipment (PPE) at work.

The case, which could potentially affect thousands of workers in America and across the world, is being brought forward by 800 workers who wear flame retardant clothing.

The important factor in the case centres on the difference between clothing and protective equipment.

In the States, this difference is critical.

Unionised workers in the US are only entitled to pay when changing if previously agreed between the union and the employer. Under US law however, workers always have to be paid when they put on 'essential protective workplace gear' which is not 'clothes'.

The steel workers are claiming that flame retardant jackets, trousers, gloves, hard hats and necessary items are PPE and not clothes. However, their employer US Steel does not agree.

Instead, it says that any wearable item is clothing.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that the definition of protective gear in the country has successively changed under the Clinton, Bush Junior and Obama administrations.

What has not changed, of course, is the effectiveness of protective gear against various degrees of injury.

The court is likely to take its time on the ruling. With commentators on the case expecting a precedent to be set, the decision is set to be returned in June of next year.

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