Proposed Emergency Response Standard ‘very burdensome’ for volunteer firefighters says NVFC

April 10, 2024

OSHA proposes updates to emergency response regulations

On February 5, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to update its “Fire Brigades” standard to a new “Emergency Response Standard.” This move initiated a public comment period, originally set to end on May 6.

In response to input from the emergency services sector, OSHA has decided to extend this period until June 21, 2024.

The proposed changes are intended to modernize and improve safety protocols but have raised concerns among volunteer fire departments.

These departments face challenges with the new requirements, which are considered overly burdensome and, in some cases, unfeasible.

The standards in question include demanding physical exams, the necessity for new equipment purchases, and the development of emergency plans that may exceed the staffing resources available to volunteer organizations.

NVFC warns of impact on volunteer fire departments

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has voiced significant concerns regarding the potential impact of these proposed updates.

“The proposed updated standard would issue several new requirements that would be very burdensome, and in many cases impossible, for volunteer fire departments to comply with,” stated an NVFC representative.

They highlighted the restrictive nature of the new standards on physical exams, equipment purchases, and emergency planning.

In light of these challenges, the NVFC is urging volunteer departments to actively participate in the public comment period.

The council emphasizes the importance of OSHA receiving a detailed understanding of the difficulties volunteer departments would face under the new standard.

“It is important that OSHA receive the most detailed picture possible of how difficult it would be for volunteer departments to comply with this proposed standard,” the NVFC remarked.

Call to action for community feedback

The NVFC is also preparing its own comprehensive feedback on the proposed Emergency Response Standard.

They are currently gathering insights through a survey to inform their comments more effectively.

The organization encourages all volunteer departments to contribute detailed comments on how the proposed changes would affect their operations.

The NVFC provides a comment guide and supplementary outline to assist departments in drafting their feedback and instructions for submitting comments to OSHA.

With the extended comment period, there is a renewed opportunity for individual and organizational stakeholders to express their concerns and suggestions regarding the proposed standard.

The collective feedback is expected to play a crucial role in guiding OSHA’s final decisions on the Emergency Response Standard, ensuring it accommodates the needs and capabilities of volunteer fire departments.

FSJA Comment

The proactive engagement of organizations like the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) in soliciting and compiling feedback from these departments is pivotal in ensuring that the voices of volunteer responders are heard and considered.

As the deadline for comments approaches, the compilation of detailed feedback will be instrumental in influencing a standard that both enhances safety and is feasible for volunteer departments to implement.

This situation highlights the ongoing dialogue between regulatory bodies and the communities they serve, aiming to achieve the common goal of improved emergency response effectiveness and safety for all involved.

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