IAFF urges new federal safety standards to protect US fire fighters


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IAFF addresses Congress on new fire fighter safety standards

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) addressed Congress on June 4, calling for new federal safety standards to protect fire fighters.

As reported by the IAFF, the current approach to fire fighter safety has been inadequate for the last 40 years.

IAFF Director of Government Affairs, Evan Davis, testified before the Emergency Management and Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Homeland Security, emphasizing the need for significant investment in staffing, training, and resources.

Davis stated: “Our reliance on consensus standards with no teeth and the goodwill of city administrators is literally killing us.

“Unlike nearly every other American industry, we have almost no legally enforceable workplace protections.”

The proposed updates by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) include comprehensive revisions to the Fire Brigades Standard, now to be renamed the Emergency Response Standard.

Proposed updates to fire brigades standard

The proposed standards aim to revamp the Fire Brigades Standard, addressing various aspects of emergency response.

This includes staffing, training, apparatus readiness, and protective equipment.

Employers would also need to provide baseline medical screenings and access to behavioral health resources for emergency responders.

IAFF General President Edward Kelly commented: “Our job will never stop being dangerous, but there are steps we can take to make it safer.

“This update is long overdue, and the Biden Administration agrees.”

The IAFF has been lobbying for these changes, arguing they will save lives and enhance fire fighter safety.

Volunteer fire departments raise concerns

While the proposed standards aim to improve safety, they have raised concerns among volunteer fire departments.

Chief Joseph Maruca, Director of the National Volunteer Fire Council, warned that compliance could be economically infeasible for many volunteer fire departments, particularly in smaller communities.

He noted the recent decline in funding for FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant programs.

Maruca stated: “If adopted as written, this proposal would be economically infeasible for most volunteer fire departments to implement and cause many volunteer fire departments to shut down.”

He highlighted the challenge of implementing the new standards without adequate financial support.

Congressional response and future steps

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) acknowledged the concerns of both career and volunteer fire organizations.

He emphasized the need for a balanced approach that enhances fire fighter safety while preventing regulatory burdens that could make communities less safe.

D’Esposito concluded the hearing by thanking the participating organizations, including the IAFF, for their efforts in promoting fire fighter safety.

D’Esposito remarked: “This OSHA standard hasn’t been touched since 1980, and you have been the driving force of making fire fighters lives safer throughout this country.”

The next steps involve further discussions and potential revisions to ensure the standards are practical and beneficial for all fire departments.

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