On Monday, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would replace the current patchwork of safety regulations covering firefighters and other first responders. OSHA says that the current standards are badly outdated and should reflect current technology and other protective measures. In addition to protective clothing and PPE requirements, the proposed standard addresses hazardous materials and other threats to first responders.
Unlike many other OSHA standards, the proposal adopts a performance-based standard. This means that employers have significant flexibility to choose protective measures based on the specific risks presented to their employees. Many of the new requirements reflect adoption of the American National Standards Institute, the National Fire Protection Association, and other national industry standards.
Federal OSHA does not have jurisdiction over state and local employees, meaning public employers in states without a state OSHA program will not be directly impacted by the rules (a few of these states have specific plans for public employees). For states such as North Carolina and South Carolina that have their own OSHA programs, public employers are subject to the rules. While volunteers are generally not considered employees subject to OSHA jurisdiction, some fire department volunteers will be covered under the new rules.
OSHA is accepting comments on the proposed rules through May 6. Affected public government and private industry employers with employees who have first responder designations should review potential changes resulting from the proposal.
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