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More time to comment on OSHA’s proposed rule for emergency responders


Photo: andipantz/iStockphoto

Washington — Comments on proposed updates to OSHA’s emergency response standard are now due July 22.

It’s the second extension of the comment period, which originally was slated to close May 6 but was moved to June 21.

Firefighters, emergency medical service providers and other emergency responders are covered under a “patchwork of hazard-specific standards” or State Plan regulations, the agency says in a notice of proposed rulemaking published on Feb. 5.

“All of the OSHA standards referred to above were promulgated 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 continue medical surveillance when responders are exposed to the byproducts of fires and explosions more than 15 times a year.

The agency 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 National Volunteer Fire Council hosted a Day of Action on July 12 to inform volunteer fire departments about the changes. “While many of the proposed provisions would be helpful and improve the safety of emergency responders, many of the new requirements would be very burdensome, and in many cases impossible, for volunteer fire and emergency service departments to comply with,” NVFC says. “If the standard is adopted in its current form, many departments would be forced to shut their doors or else operate outside of the federal standard, leaving themselves open to fines, citations and huge civil liability exposure.”

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