OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

APR 9 1990

MEMORANDUM FOR: Michael G Connors

Regional Administrator

THROUGH: Leo Carey, Director Office of Field Programs

FROM: Patricia K. Clark Director Designate Directorate of Compliance Programs

Subject: Interpretation of OSHA's Fire Brigade Standard

This is in response to your memorandum of December 26, 1989, in which you requested, on behalf of Mr. William Savka of the American Fire Protection Consultants, Inc., interpretations of several sections of OSHA's Fire Brigade Standard (29 CFR 1910.156) concerning the use of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) as they relate to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1500 standard (Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program). His questions specifically concern the activities of an incipient stage fire brigade. OSHA defines an incipient stage fire, as found in 29 CFR 1910.155(c)(26), as a "fire which is in the initial or beginning stage and which can be controlled or extinguished by portable fire extinguishers, Class II standpipe or small hose systems without the need for protective clothing or breathing apparatus."

On the basis of this definition, in answer to Mr. Savka's first question concerning search and rescue, incipient stage fire brigade members are not to enter environments such as smoke-filled and toxic-filled environments where protective clothing or breathing apparatus are required. The search and rescue operations involving the fire department and other safety personnel are to be performed by personnel trained in emergency operations, such as members of an interior structural fire brigade, or an equivalent unit. Section 3-3.1 of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1500 requires that brigade members be "provided with training and education appropriate for the duties and responsibilities before being permitted to be engaged in emergency operations." Mr. Savka further questions the propriety of protective clothing for brigade members in his second question concerning infringement on structural brigade guidelines Incipient stage members would be infringing on the guidelines for an interior structural fire brigade by engaging in search and rescue activities similar to those addressed above, even if they were to wear protective clothing.

Mr. Savka's third question concerning the wearing of SCBA by incipient stage fire brigade members has been partially answered in paragraph 2 above. It would not be appropriate for members of an incipient fire brigade to lead fire department personnel trained in emergency operations into smoke or toxic filled areas.

Mr. Savka's fourth question concerns the provision of protective equipment for post-fire operations. Though not an OSHA requirement, the employer may furnish to his incipient fire brigade members, SCBA's and other protective equipment for their use during cleanup and overhaul operations after the fire is out. However, the employer shall comply with the Protective Clothing and the Respiratory Protection Devices sections of 29 CFR 1910.156(e) and (f), respectively.

In response to question #5, it has been established that incipient stage fire brigades may not conduct search and rescue work. Where structural fire brigades are engaged in search and rescue work, and where a need arises for the use of life lines, the employer should comply with NFPA 1500, Section 5-5 (Life Safety Ropes, Harnesses, and Hardware).

Questions #6 and #7 concern training of fire brigade members, and participation in confined space rescue. SCBA-trained members can be trained for structural fire brigade work and the rest of the team trained as incipient stage members. Additionally, an incipient stage brigade member, fully trained on the proper use of a SCBA and other confined space entry and rescue procedures, may participate in confined space rescues. The need for protective clothing must be based on specific factors associated with the rescue itself.

Mr. Savka asks in his final question whether procedures in the earlier questions should be included in the written procedures plan. OSHA requires under 1910.156(b) that the employer prepare and maintain a written policy that addresses many of the issues listed above. This organizational statement or policy must address the existence of the brigade, its structure, its training requirements, and its work functions.

Mr. Savka also requests an OSHA opinion on the toxicity of small fires. Where small fires have the capacity to emit toxic fumes, the employer may go beyond OSHA requirements and provide his incipient fire brigade members training and protective equipment equal to or greater than that which is required by the members of a structural fire brigade.

Finally, Mr. Savka requests a copy of our new confined space entry requirements. The Agency has not finalized the adoption of its proposed confined space standard. We anticipate the adoption of this standard sometime around February of 1991.

If you have additional questions concerning this matter, please call James C. Dillard of my staff, at FTS 523-8041.

December 8, 1989

Thomas Carnard Safety Director OSHA 2618 N. Ballard Rd. Appleton, WI 54911

Dear Mr. Carnard,

Please clarify the following in writing for us as we are receiving numerous calls pertaining to the OSHA Standard on SCBA and with the recent NFPA 1500 standard.

Can an incipient stage Fire Brigade use Self Contained Breathing Apparatus for the following:

1. Search & Rescue only, smoke filled conditions without protective clothing; boots, helmets, coats, etc.

2. Can an incipient stage Fire Brigade wear protective clothing to do the above without infringing on the structural brigade guidelines.

3. Can SCBA be worn by incipient stage Fire Brigade for the purpose of leading the fire department into smoke filled or toxic filled areas.

4. Can SCBA be worn by incipient stage Fire Brigade Members for clean up and overhaul after the fire is out.

a. Would protective boots, steel shank, coats and helmets be allowed for this without being a structural brigade.

5. During Search & Rescue activities can the incipient stage Fire Brigade Member use a charged 1-1/2" hose line for a life line or use a rope and extinguisher for protection while conducting search & rescue work.

6. Can SCBA Members be trained for structural fire brigade work and the rest of the team trained as incipient stage.

7. Can the incipient stage Fire Brigade Member who is fully trained on the proper use of SCBA participate in confined space rescue without protective clothing.

8. Should all of the above be specifically covered in the written procedures plan.

Some of the members feel that even small fires have toxic fumes and want to wear SCBA equipment while extinguishing them. Please give us your opinion in simple terms on this and all other questions addressed in this letter.

Please send us a copy of the new requirements concerning confined space entry.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.



William Savka President


Please respond in writing as soon as possible. Thank you.