NIOSH Urges Compliance with Voluntary Consensus Standards on Firefighter Training

Published January 18, 2017

​A new NIOSH “Workplace Solutions” document urges fire departments to train firefighters in accordance with standards established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in order to prevent deaths and injuries during training exercises. NFPA develops voluntary consensus standards for the fire service, including standards describing performance requirements for firefighter trainees and fire-service instructors. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, approximately 11 percent of firefighter line-of-duty deaths from 2001 to 2014 were related to training activities such as physical fitness activities, apparatus and equipment drills, and live-burn exercises. NIOSH notes that while “inadequate training and training without safeguards can be life threatening to firefighters,” some fire departments do not conduct training in accordance with national consensus standards for training programs. According to the agency, budgetary constraints, time constraints, and lack of understanding of the standards and the benefits of complying with them are factors that contribute to this lack of proper training.

The NIOSH document describes the benefits of training and includes two case studies in which firefighters died as a result of and during training activities. The agency also provides recommendations for fire departments and training participants to minimize risk when conducting training exercises, including information on relevant NFPA standards.

Today’s firefighters respond to many types of incidents beyond traditional fire suppression, including hazardous material incidents, combustible-metal fires, large-scale disasters, terrorist events, and confined-space rescues. According to NIOSH, “the expanded role and decrease in structure firefighting experience of the firefighter has made training a necessity for carrying out the mission of the fire service as safely as possible.”

For more information, see the Workplace Solutions document.