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Occupational Safety and Health Administration Proposes To Expand Protections for Emergency Workers

OSHA estimates that about 1 million emergency response workers would fall into the scope of the proposed rule.

Posted: Jan. 4, 2024

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing to issue a new safety and health standard titled “Emergency Response” to replace the existing “Fire Brigades Standard” (29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.156). The new standard would address a broader scope of emergency responders and would include programmatic elements to protect emergency responders from a variety of occupational hazards.

OSHA’s Fire Brigades Standard has had only minor updates since it was first published in 1980. The new standard would:

  • Align with the current industry consensus standards issued by the National Fire Protection Association on the safe conduct of emergency response activities.
  • Apply to a wider audience of emergency workers including firefighters (both structural and wildland), emergency medical service providers, and technical search and rescue workers.
  • Address a much broader range of occupational hazards.
  • Bring OSHA 1910.156 into alignment with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Response Framework and the National Incident Management System.

OSHA estimates that about 1 million emergency response workers would fall into the scope of the proposed rule. While OSHA standards apply only to employees and therefore do not apply to most volunteer responders, volunteers may be treated as employees under some states’ laws. OSHA estimates that about 300,000 volunteer responders would fall within the scope of this proposed rule.

For more information, OSHA has established a dedicated webpage for the Emergency Response Ruling.

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This article is based on content in the
Jan. 4, 2024 InfoGram.

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