Background

Emergency response workers in America face considerable occupational health and safety hazards in dynamic and unpredictable work environments. Current OSHA emergency response and preparedness standards are outdated and incomplete. They do not address the full range of hazards facing emergency responders, lag behind changes in protective equipment performance and industry practices, conflict with industry consensus standards, and are not aligned with current emergency response guidelines of other federal agencies (e.g., DHS/FEMA).

Major disaster response efforts in recent decades and changes in the federal government's approach to emergency response and preparedness also warrant OSHA taking a more comprehensive approach to emergency responder preparedness. This new standard would replace in entirety existing 29 CFR 1910.156, Fire brigades.

About the Rule

The primary focus of the Emergency Response rule would be to protect workers who respond to emergencies as part of their regularly assigned duties. Examples include: fire brigades/workplace emergency response teams, industrial and municipal fire fighters, technical rescuers, emergency medical service providers, etc. A secondary focus of the rule would be to protect those workers who may be called upon, from time to time, to respond to emergencies. Examples include: skilled support workers such as heavy equipment and crane operators, heavy wrecker/rotator operators, etc. OSHA does not intend to regulate those first responders solely engaged in law enforcement, crime prevention or security.

The agency has thus far published a Request For Information (RFI), held stakeholder meetings, and convened a NACOSH subcommittee of subject matter experts. The subcommittee developed draft regulatory language and NACOSH recommended to the Secretary that OSHA proceed with rulemaking. The next step is to gather information from small businesses as required by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). The Emergency Response SBREFA will be in the fall of 2021.

This rulemaking effort is separate from OSHA's technical assistance resources for emergency response and recovery workers. For those resources, visit OSHA's Emergency Preparedness and Response page.