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.

July 18, 1996

Mr. William Grisham, CIH
Basic Chemicals
Nashville Technical Center
Mt. Joy Road
P.O. Box 472
Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee 38474-0472

Dear Mr. Grisham:

Thank you for your letter of March 13 requesting an interpretation under OSHA's 29 CFR 1910.156 fire brigade standard. Your inquiry requested written clarification of issues related to "incipient stage fire brigades."

Your first question requested an interpretation about equipping fire brigade members with SCBA's even though their activities are limited to fighting only those fires which meet the definition of "incipient stage fires." Although OSHA's definition of an incipient stage fire includes a provision that the fire can be controlled/extinguished without the need for protective clothing or breathing apparatus, OSHA recognizes the special circumstances which Rhone-Poulenc faces. Because of your concerns about the potential toxicity of gases, vapors and products of combustion unique to your workplaces, you believe fire brigade members should be equipped with SCBA's. We agree, and accordingly, you may provide "incipient stage fire brigade members" with SCBA's if their activities are limited to fighting "incipient stage fires," and may not include interior fire fighting or situations which would be covered by OSHA's Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) policy.

In response to your second concern about whether fire brigade members could fight "exterior fires" in a defensive manner, OSHA will consider Rhone-Poulenc in compliance if "incipient stage fire brigade" members act in accordance with NFPA 600 (1996), Chapter 1, section 4.3.2 when fighting exterior fires in a defensive manner. SCBA's may be provided during this activity based on the concerns raised above.

As you acknowledged in your letter, it is understood that the "organizational statements" of your "incipient stage fire brigades" shall clearly specify all functions that are to be performed, the limits of your capabilities, the equipment to be used, and the corresponding training requirements. For example, your incipient stage fire brigade members are required to be trained on the provisions of 1910.134 relating to such issues as limitations of SCBAs, proper methods of donning SCBAs, etc.

We apologize for the delay in writing this response and hope that this interpretation is useful. If we can be of any further assistance please contact Margo Daniel, of my staff, at (202)219-8041, extension #107. Thank you for your interest in safety and health.


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs