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.

March 12, 1999

The Honorable Rodney P. Frelinghuysen
Member, United States
House of Representatives
1 Morris Street
Morristown, NJ 07960

Dear Congressman Frelinghuysen:

This is in response to your letter dated December 11, 1998, which was sent to Craig Obey in the Office of Intra-Governmental Affairs (OIGA) of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter forwarded a telefax you had received from Mr. Joel Weingarten, an Assemblyman in Livingston, New Jersey. Mr. Weingarten expressed concern with the "new" OSHA regulation that requires firefighters to follow a "two-in/two-out policy" and a newspaper article that concluded that now all fire departments would need six firefighters on duty at all times.

Mr. Weingarten is referring to paragraph (g)(4) of the revised Respiratory Protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, which was published in the Federal Register on January 8, 1998. The "two-in, two-out" requirement adopted by this standard is and has been standard practice in the firefighting community for many years, and reflects only the number of firefighters who must be on the scene prior to initiating the interior attack on an interior structural fire. "Two-in, two-out" is strongly supported by an analysis of information from the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and existing OSHA standards and interpretations. OSHA's respiratory protection standard codifies recommended practice. It does not require fire departments to hire additional firefighters; it does not require four-person fire companies; it does not require four persons on a fire truck. Most fire departments have more than four firefighters and can assemble the numbers required on the scene by waiting for others to arrive. During this time the fire may be attacked from the outside, sizing-up operations may occur, and emergency rescue necessary to save lives may take place. Additional staff can be assembled by such means as calling for a second fire company at the scene, calling in additional firefighters who are on standby, and calling on other nearby fire departments when necessary. It is anticipated that small fire departments may rely on "mutual aid" agreements with neighboring jurisdictions to supply additional firefighters to assist with interior structural firefighting, if that is necessary to ensure compliance with "two-in, two-out." The intent of the "two-in, two-out" rule is a worker safety practice requirement, not a staffing requirement.

This OSHA standard - and all other Federal OSHA standards - only apply to public and municipal workers such as firefighters in States which operate their own occupational safety and health program under an OSHA-approved State Plan. Any State with an approved State plan must have standards which are "at least as effective as" the Federal standards and must extend their coverage to State and local government employees. Although New Jersey does not currently have an OSHA-approved State Plan, the State is seeking approval for such a program limited in scope to public employees only. OSHA's FY 2000 budget as proposed by President Clinton includes $1,735,000 in 50% grant funding for such a program. In the meantime, on its own initiative, the New Jersey Department of Labor is providing protection to State and local workers, which would presumably include firefighters, under State law. (Since OSHA has no jurisdiction over this group of workers, any State is free to undertake its own program with or without an OSHA-approved State Plan.) You may want to contact the New Jersey Department of Labor at the following address for more specific information on their current requirements for firefighters:

Len Katz, Assistant Commissioner
New Jersey Department of Labor
Labor Standards and Safety Enforcement
CN 054
Trenton, New Jersey 08652-0054

We hope this has been responsive to your concerns and those of your constituent. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call OSHA's Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-2190.


Charles N. Jeffress
Assistant Secretary