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.

May 27, 1993

Mr. Michael J. Csedrik, Director
Safety and Health
Union Camp Corporation
1600 Valley Road
Wayne, New Jersey 07470

Dear Mr. Csedrik:

This is a further response to your letter of February 2, and the March 30, and April 14, telephone conversations with staff member James C. Dillard, in which you requested interpretations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's standard at 29 CFR 1910.158, Standpipe and hose systems, and of related requirements under 1910.156, the Fire brigades standard. In your letter, you stated that you received three different interpretations from three OSHA offices on the same subject.

Question: Are we in compliance with 1910.158(g)(1) through (g)(4) if employees, who are not members of an incipient stage fire brigade, and who are expected to use fire extinguishers to extinguish small fires, are given an annual educational program which includes fighting a live fire with an extinguisher, followed by annual classroom sessions which include a fire extinguisher demonstration?

Reply: We believe that you intended to refer to 1910.157(g)(1) through (g)(4), rather than 1910.158 [1910.158 covers standpipe and hose systems]. If so, your annual education program, as you described, does meet the intent of 1910.157(g)(1) through (g)(4) for those employees who have not been designated members of the fire brigade. Employees designated members of the incipient stage fire brigade must meet the requirements of 1910.156, Fire brigades, in addition to the requirements of 1910.157(g)(1) through (g)(4).

Question: Is it acceptable for members of an incipient stage fire brigade to turn on and aim fire monitors (water cannons) at a fire at chemical facilities when the fire is at the incipient stage of burning where the use of "special personal protective equipment, such as turnout gear or respiratory protection" would not be required?

Reply: During telephone conversations with Mr. Dillard, you stated that the not-less-than 2-1/2 inch diameter fixed monitors, with flow ratings of between 250 and 750 gallons per minutes (gpm), were located outdoors, on platforms 5 feet above the ground, at a distance of between 50 to 100 feet from the chemical buildings they protect. Additionally, you stated that the monitors were not located within diked areas to impede brigade members' escape or evacuation [since brigade members can cross a street to remove themselves from any potential hazard, and since the municipal fire department is located one mile from the chemical plant].

Based on the above information, the use of incipient stage fire brigade members to operate fire monitors to suppress "incipient stage fires" that may occur in chemical buildings is prohibited by the restrictions placed on these brigade members, as defined at 29 CFR 1910.155(c)(26). 1910.155(c)(26) defines an incipient stage fire as being cable of being "controlled or extinguished by portable fire extinguishers, Class I standpipe or small hose systems...". OSHA does not consider these fire monitors to be part of a small hose system. Additionally, Paragraph 1-4.3, of NFPA 600, Standard on Industrial Fire Brigades, sets limits for fire brigades assigned incipient fire fighting duties. According to the limits, brigade members can only use handlines flowing up to 125 gpm. You indicated that your water canons have flow rates of not less than 250 gpm.

OSHA does not restrict employers in their effort to establish fire brigades, and there is nothing in the OSHA regulations that prohibits employees from performing these duties so long as they are provided with training commensurate with their duties and functions; Therefore since the restrictions placed on incipient stage fire brigade members preclude their performing the duties outlined in your letter, you may wish not to call your fire brigade "incipient", but something more than this, thereby allowing it to perform the task of using fire monitors commensurate with its training and education. An organizational statement meeting the requirements of 1910.156(b) must be prepared and maintained reflecting the duties and functions of this fire brigade.

If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact Mr. Dillard at (202) 219-8031.


Roger A. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs