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OSHA publishes ‘comprehensive’ proposed rule on emergency response


Photo: andipantz/iStockphoto

Washington — OSHA is seeking to “address the full range of hazards currently facing emergency responders” via a recently released proposed rule.

Firefighters, emergency medical service providers and other emergency responders are covered under a “patchwork of hazard-specific standards” or State Plan regulations, OSHA says in a notice of proposed rulemaking published Feb. 5. Current regulations also don’t align with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Incident Management System.

“All of the OSHA standards referred to above were promulagated decades ago, and none was designed as a comprehensive emergency response standard,” the NPRM states.

In addition to replacing its standard on fire brigades (1910.156), OSHA wants to address major changes in performance specifications for protective clothing/equipment and safety and health practices that have “already been accepted by the emergency response community and incorporated into industry consensus standards.” 

The proposal also would require employers to obtain baseline medical screenings for first responders and ensure continued medical surveillance when responders are exposed to the byproducts of fires and explosions more than 15 times a year. 

OSHA notes that its standards don’t apply to volunteer emergency responders, but State Plans may treat volunteers as employees. “OSHA has no authority over how individual states regulate volunteers,” the NPRM states.

The deadline to comment is May 6.

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