OSHA proposal seeks to update 1980s ‘Fire Brigades’ standard

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration will publish a proposal in January 2024 to update an existing standard and expand safety and health protections for emergency responders, including firefighters, emergency medical service providers and technical search and rescue workers. President Biden is committed to protecting our emergency responders, the same way they protect us every day—and this proposed rule is a critical step to ensure their safety.

OSHA will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to modernize the agency’s “Fire Brigades” standard — first published in 1980 — as its protections for a narrow set of industrial and private firefighters have become outdated. 

Currently, OSHA regulations protect emergency responders’ safety and health in a patchwork of decades-old, hazard-specific standards. Not designed as comprehensive emergency response standards, they fail to address the full range of job hazards faced by today’s emergency responders. The newly named “Emergency Response” standard updates 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 proposal will include major changes for protective clothing and equipment and significant improvements in safety and health practices that the industry generally accepts as standard procedures. 

“Emergency responders are critical workers in all of our communities, and they deserve protections that keep up with today’s industry practices,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “We are proposing much-needed updates that will expand protections for emergency workers and bring our standards closer to common industry procedures.”

The proposed rule requires employers to obtain baseline medical screening for all emergency responders and ensure continued medical surveillance for responders when they are exposed to the byproducts of fires and explosions more than 15 times annually. The proposal also includes a variety of other requirements to better protect both workers whose primary job is emergency response and those whose emergency response duties are in addition to their regular daily work duties. 

Learn more about OSHA’s Emergency Response Rulemaking. The public can submit comments to the docket once the Federal Register formally publishes the proposed rule. 

Learn more about OSHA.

Agency

Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Date

December 21, 2023

Release Number

23-2362-NAT

Media Contact: Egan Reich

Phone Number

202-693-4960

Email

reich.egan@dol.gov

https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osha/osha20231221