January 4, 2024

OSHA Proposes Rule Protecting Emergency Responders

OSHA announced in December that it will propose a standard expanding health and safety protections for emergency response workers. According to a Department of Labor press release, the standard will, if implemented, cover firefighters, emergency medical service providers, and technical search and rescue workers. It will update current OSHA regulations that were not designed as comprehensive emergency response standards and do not cover the full range of job hazards that today’s emergency response workers may encounter. The forthcoming proposed rulemaking is intended to bring federal safety and health protections “in line with national consensus standards for a broad range of workers exposed to hazards that arise during and after fires and other emergencies,” the press release states.

The proposal will cover changes related to protective clothing and equipment and improved safety and health practices. It will also include a requirement that employers obtain medical surveillance for emergency response workers who are exposed to the byproducts of fires and explosions more than 15 times per year. Other proposed requirements will address workers whose emergency response duties are adjacent to their regular work duties, as well as those who are primarily emergency response workers.

If adopted, the emergency response standard will replace the existing fire brigades standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.156). This standard covers only firefighters and has received only minor updates since it was promulgated in 1980, OSHA says.

OSHA invites members of the public to submit comments on the rulemaking once it is formally published in the Federal Register in January 2024. Until then, an unofficial version of the rulemaking may be downloaded as a PDF from OSHA’s website.

More information may be found in the DOL press release.