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Incident Command System

Safety Aspects

Emergency Response Workers

This section outlines the OSHA standards that affect Incident Command System workers. This section also offers additional guidance information applicable to emergency response safety and health.

OSHA Standards Related to the ICS

HAZMAT WorkersHazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response [1910.120]

Paragraph Q relates directly to Emergency Response. It says:

  • The senior emergency response official responding to an emergency shall become the individual in charge of a site-specific Incident Command System (ICS). All emergency responders and their communications shall be coordinated and controlled through the individual in charge of the ICS assisted by the senior official present for each employer. [1910.120(q)(3)(i)]

    NOTE TO PARAGRAPH (q)(3)(i). - The "senior official" at an emergency response is the most senior officialon the site who has the responsibility for controllingthe operations at the site. Initially it is thesenior officer on the first-due piece of respondingemergency apparatus to arrive on the incident scene.As more senior officers arrive (i.e., battalionchief, fire chief, state law enforcement official,site coordinator, etc.) the position is passed upthe line of authority which has been previouslyestablished.

  • The individual in charge of the ICS shall identify, to the extent possible, all hazardous substances or conditions present and shall address as appropriate site analysis, use of engineering controls, maximum exposure limits, hazardous substance handling procedures, and use of any new technologies. [1910.120(q)(3)(ii)]

  • HAZMAT Worker Based on the hazardous substances and/or conditions present, the individual in charge of the ICS shall implement appropriate emergency operations, and assure that the personal protective equipment worn is appropriate for the hazards to be encountered. However, personal protective equipment shall meet, at a minimum, the criteria contained in [1910.156(e)] when worn while performing fire fighting operations beyond the incipient stage for any incident. [1910.120(q)(3)(iii)]

  • Employees engaged in emergency response and exposed to hazardous substances presenting an inhalation hazard or potential inhalation hazard shall wear positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus while engaged in emergency response, until such time that the individual in charge of the ICS determines through the use of air monitoring that a decreased level of respiratory protection will not result in hazardous exposures to employees. [1910.120(q)(3)(iv)]

  • The individual in charge of the ICS shall limit the number of emergency response personnel at the emergency site, in those areas of potential or actual exposure to incident or site hazards, to those who are actively performing emergency operations. However, operations in hazardous areas shall be performed using the buddy system in groups of two or more. [1910.120(q)(3)(v)]

  • Emergency Response Workers Back-up personnel shall be standing by with equipment ready to provide assistance or rescue. Qualified basic life support personnel, as a minimum, shall also be standing by with medical equipment and transportation capability. [1910.120(q)(3)(vi)]

  • The individual in charge of the ICS shall designate a safety officer, who is knowledgeable in the operations being implemented at the emergency response site, with specific responsibility to identify and evaluate hazards and to provide direction with respect to the safety of operations for the emergency at hand. [1910.120(q)(3)(vii)]

  • When activities are judged by the safety officer to be an IDLH and/or to involve an imminent danger condition, the safety officer shall have the authority to alter, suspend, or terminate those activities. The safety official shall immediately inform the individual in charge of the ICS of any actions needed to be taken to correct these hazards at the emergency scene. [1910.120(q)(3)(viii)]

  • After emergency operations have terminated, the individual in charge of the ICS shall implement appropriate decontamination procedures. [1910.120(q)(3)(ix)]

  • Hazardous materials technicians must be able to function within an assigned role in the Incident Command System. [1910.120(q)(6)(iii)(C)]

  • On scene incident commander. Incident commanders, who will assume control of the incident scene beyond the first responder awareness level, shall receive at least 24 hours of training equal to the first responder operations level and in addition have competency in the following areas and the employer shall so certify: [1910.120(q)(6)(v)]

  • Know and be able to implement the employer's incident command system. [1910.120(q)(6)(v)(A)]

  • Know how to implement the employer's emergency response plan. [1910.120(q)(6)(v)(B)]

  • Know and understand the hazards and risks associated with employees working in chemical protective clothing. [1910.120(q)(6)(v)(C)]

  • Know how to implement the local emergency response plan. [1910.120(q)(6)(v)(D)]

  • Know of the state emergency response plan and of the Federal Regional Response Team. [1910.120(q)(6)(v)(E)]

  • Know and understand the importance of decontamination procedures. [1910.120(q)(6)(v)(F)]

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
HAZMAT Workers

If PPE is to be used to reduce the exposure of ICS/UC workers to hazards, a PPE program should be initialized and maintained. This program should contain identification and evaluation of hazards in the scene and if use of PPE is an appropriate control measure; if PPE is to be used, how it is selected, maintained and its use evaluated; training of workers using the PPE; and vigilance of the program to determine its effectiveness in preventing worker injury or illness. For more on PPE, see OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Safety and Health Topics Page.

Additional resources:

Evacuation Plans and Procedures
Evacuation eTool

OSHA has an eTool on evacuation plans and procedures. It can assist you in creating an emergency action plan, assure OSHA compliance, identify potential hazards and help to find additional information.

ICS/UC Safety-Related Materials from Other Agencies
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has developed a number of ICS/UC guidance documents and maintains several ICS/UC-related websites, including:

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