OSHA proposes new standard to broaden protections for emergency workers

Share this content


Overview of OSHA’s proposed emergency response rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a proposal to introduce a new safety and health standard titled “Emergency Response.” This initiative aims to replace the existing “Fire Brigades Standard” (29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.156).

The proposed rule is designed to encompass a wider range of emergency workers, offering enhanced protection against occupational hazards.

It seeks to align with current industry standards and address the needs of firefighters, emergency medical service providers, and technical search and rescue workers.

OSHA’s Fire Brigades Standard, with minimal updates since 1980, is set for a significant overhaul.

The proposed standard aims to align with the National Fire Academy’s consensus standards on safe emergency response conduct.

It also intends to bring OSHA 1910.156 into alignment with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Response Framework and the National Incident Management System.

Scope and impact of the new standard

OSHA estimates that approximately 1 million emergency response workers will fall under the scope of this proposed rule.

The update is significant, given that the current standards apply only to employees and not to most volunteer responders.

However, under some state laws, volunteers may be treated as employees, potentially bringing about 300,000 volunteer responders within the scope of this new rule.

For further details, OSHA has established a dedicated webpage for the Emergency Response Ruling, providing comprehensive information and welcoming public comments upon the official publication in the Federal Register.

Background and details of the proposed rule

Emergency response workers in America are exposed to various occupational health and safety hazards in dynamic and unpredictable work environments.

Current OSHA standards, seen as outdated and incomplete, fail to adequately address the full range of hazards these workers face.

The proposed rule aims to rectify this by ensuring that workers involved in emergency response activities receive proper protection against job-related hazards.

The focus of the proposed Emergency Response rule is to offer basic workplace protections for workers responding to emergencies as part of their regular duties.

The rule’s expansion to include emergency medical service providers and technical search and rescue workers marks a significant step forward in worker safety.

OSHA is actively seeking comments and input from stakeholders and the general public on this proposed rule, highlighting its commitment to enhancing the safety and health standards for emergency workers.

IFSJ comment

The proposal by OSHA to update and expand the protections for emergency response workers marks a proactive approach to enhancing workplace safety standards.

This move reflects an understanding of the evolving nature of emergency response work and the diverse range of hazards these professionals face.

By broadening the scope of protected workers and aligning with current industry standards, OSHA demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that all emergency responders receive the necessary protections to safely perform their duties.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox