NVFC Testifies to Congress Regarding OSHA’s Emergency Response Standard and Develops One-Pager to Assist with Public Comments

Joe Maruca and Dave Denniston testifying to Congress regarding OSHA's Emergency Response StandardOn June 4, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) testified before the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Emergency Management and Technology regarding the impact that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed Emergency Response Standard will have on volunteer fire departments.

OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on February 5 to replace their Fire Brigade Standard with the proposed Emergency Response Standard. While there are many positive aspects of the proposed standard, it also contains multiple new requirements that would be very burdensome, and in many cases impossible, for volunteer fire departments to comply with.

The hearing had four witnesses, two offering the perspective of career firefighters and two offering the perspective of volunteer firefighters. The two witnesses who testified on the behalf of the volunteer fire service were Joe Maruca, NVFC Massachusetts director, and Dave Denniston, second vice president of the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York.

In his testimony on behalf of the NVFC, Maruca commended OSHA’s efforts to promote firefighter safety by putting forth the proposed Emergency Response Standard. However, if adopted as written, the standard would be economically infeasible for volunteer fire departments to comply with and could cause many of these departments to shut down. It could also compromise the safety and emergency response capabilities of many small communities, particularly those in rural areas.

Maruca explained that in addition to the economic infeasibility, other factors that would be problematic include the incorporation by reference of industry consensus standards, numerous ambiguities on how volunteers would be covered, the lack of personnel expertise and availability to facilitate implementation, and an unrealistic proposed timeline for implementation. For these reasons, the NVFC would like OSHA to exempt volunteer firefighters from this proposed standard and work with the organization on a better way to ensure volunteer firefighter safety.

View the Congressional hearing here and read the NVFC’s written testimony here.

The NVFC encourages volunteer responders to learn more about how the proposed standard will impact their department and submit a comment to OSHA explaining these concerns before the July 22 deadline. To help, the NVFC maintains a landing page with tools and resources for submitting an effective comment. This includes a newly added one-pager that summarizes some of the most cost prohibitive provisions contained in the proposed standard.