OSHA Regulations for EMS

By Kwami K. Kwami
OSHA has specific guidelines for training EMS responders to hazardous substance incidents.

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The two Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations that govern emergency medical services (EMS) are found at Title 29 CFR § 1910.120(q)(6) (Hazardous waste operations and emergency response; and emergency response to hazardous substance releases). Each regulation deals with the level of responsibilities that EMS personnel have when responding to incidents involving hazardous substances, as well as the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training required.

Awareness Training

First responders are trained according to Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) guidelines to initiate the EMS sequence by notifying the appropriate authorities when they either witness or discover a hazardous substance release. The regulations ensure that these first responders demonstrate sufficiency in training and/or experience in the following: comprehensive knowledge of hazardous substances and the potential emergencies they are likely to create; scene security and control pursuant to instituted emergency response plan and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook; and ability to predict the necessity of additional resources.

Operations Training

First responders are trained per HAZWOPER guidelines to be the first EMS personnel to arrive on the scene as part of the EMS sequence after notification of potential or actual releases of hazardous substances. Their main purpose is to ensure the protection of nearby persons, property, or the environment by keeping a safe distance and preventing further exposure. The regulations ensure that these first responders demonstrate sufficiency in training and/or experience in the following: comprehensive knowledge of basic hazardous substance risk assessment techniques; proper personal protective equipment (PPE) usage; performance of basic control, containment and/or confinement operations; implementation of basic decontamination procedures; and an understanding of the relevant standard operating and termination procedures.

Best Practices

OSHA publishes a manual entitled "Best Practices for Protecting EMS Responders during Treatment and Transport of Victims of Hazardous Substance Releases (OSHA # 3370-11 (2009))." While the manual is not intended by OSHA to serve as an enforceable standard or regulation, it does provide EMS personnel with recommendations on the best ways to implement HAZWOPER Awareness and Operations Training.

About the Author

Kwami K. Kwami is the founder of Imagine-A-Nation Edutainment Media which produced PHAT LIP! YouthTalk Radio, the first internationally syndicated youth-oriented radio talk show. He is the author of "The Tables Have Turned: A Street Guide to Guerrilla Lawfare" and director of Do-It-Yourself LAW (Lay Advocacy Workgroups).

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