OSHA’s Emergency Response Standard Update Threatens Volunteer Fire Departments

On December 21, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to modernize the agency’s “Fire Brigades” standard. This standard was first published and last updated in 1980.

This proposed updated standard would issue several new requirements that would be very burdensome, and in many cases impossible, for volunteer fire departments to comply with. Specifically, there would be prohibitively restrictive standards on physical exams, the purchase of new equipment, and the formation of emergency plans that exceed the staffing capabilities of many volunteer departments.

The proposed updated standard was published in the Federal Register on February 5, and public comments are being accepted until May 6. The National Volunteer Fire Council will be filing comments on this proposed rule and encourages members of the volunteer fire service community to submit their own comments and request a public hearing on this proposed standard.

Access the text of this rule and instructions on how to file comments here. Additionally, OSHA Region 1 Training Institute Education Center recently conducted a webinar providing an overview of what’s in the standard and some of the impacts it would have on volunteers.