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 http://www.osha.gov.

February 29, 2012

Captain Max Anthouard
City of Ypsilanti Fire Department
525 West Michigan Avenue
Yspilanti, Michigan 48197

Dear Captain Anthouard:

Thank you for your September 17, 2010, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs. We apologize for the delay in our reply. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any scenario or questions not delineated within your original correspondence. You had a specific question regarding our "two-in/two-out" policy. Our response to your paraphrased question is provided below.

Question: Paragraph (g)(4) of OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.134, notes one of the two individuals located outside the Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) atmosphere may be assigned to an additional role, such as incident commander in charge of the emergency or safety officer, so long as this individual is able to perform assistance or rescue activities without jeopardizing the safety or health of any firefighter working at the incident. What other task can the second individual perform?

Response: The safety of firefighters engaged in interior structural firefighting is the major focus of paragraph (g)(4). As stated in your letter, this provision requires that at least two employees enter the IDLH atmosphere and remain in visual or voice contact with each other at all times. It also requires that at least two employees be located outside the IDLH atmosphere. As you are aware, this assures that the "two in" can monitor each other and assist with equipment failure or entrapment or other hazards, and the "two out" can monitor those in the building, initiate rescue, or call for assistance.

One of these outside firefighters must actively monitor the status of the inside firefighters and may not be assigned additional duties. The second outside firefighter may perform a variety of other duties, but those other duties are not allowed to interfere with the member's ability to provide assistance or rescue to the firefighters working at the incident; any assignment of additional duties must be weighed against the potential for interference with this requirement. OSHA's rationale is explained in detail in the preamble to the Respiratory Protection Standard, Federal Register 63:1245-1248 (Jan. 8, 1998), located on OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

OSHA emphasizes that the requirement for standby personnel does not preclude the incident commander from relying on his/her professional judgment to make assignments during a fire emergency. Although the standard requires at least two standby persons during the attack on an interior fire, there are obviously situations where more than two persons will be required both inside and outside the interior structure, a decision ultimately to be made by the incident commander.

OSHA's requirement in no way is intended to establish staffing requirements with regard to, for example, the number of persons on a fire truck or the size of a fire company. Rather, the "two-in/two-out" provision specifies only the number of firefighters who must be present before the interior attack on an interior structural fire is initiated. All that is intended is that an interior attack should not be undertaken until sufficient personal are assembled to allow for "two-in/two-out" requirement.

As you may be aware, Federal OSHA does not have jurisdiction over employees of State and local governments, including firefighters. However, the State of Michigan does cover public sector employees under its OSHA-approved occupational safety and health state plan. Michigan has adopted a standard identical to the Federal respiratory protection standard. While the State may interpret its standard differently from Federal OSHA, the interpretations must be at least as effective as the Federal interpretations. You may wish to contact the Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration concerning its enforcement of the respiratory protection standard. The address is:

Douglas J. Kalinowski, CIH, Director
Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration
7150 Harris Drive
P.O. Box 30643
Lansing, Michigan 48909-8143
Telephone: (517) 322-1817

We are providing Director Kalinowski with a copy of this letter.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretations letters explain the 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 http://www.osha.gov.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General industry enforcement at (202) 693-1850.

Sincerely,

Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

cc: MIOSHA