Occupational health and safety was a concern for the American worker long before the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) became law at the end of 1970. This act gave the federal government the power to enforce safety regulations to protect workers in industry. OSHA has specific regulations for fire brigades, and whether they are covered by OSHA regulations depends on factors such as the state they are in and whether they are volunteers or employees.
OSHA does not cover all volunteer fire departments because there must be an employer-employee relationship. State and local government employees are not required to meet OSHA regulations unless the state is one that operates its own OSHA program. Some may elect coverage by OSHA regulations.
OSHA Training Requirements
The internal structural fire brigade has the most stringent requirements in training. Fire brigades coming under OSHA must have an organizational statement in writing, and it must include "type, amount and frequency of training." Training and education must be frequent enough to assure that each member of the fire brigade is able to perform assigned duties in a safe manner so as not to endanger fire brigade members or other employees.
Training conducted before performing any emergency activities is required, and employees must receive training annually after that. Fire brigade leaders and instructors are to receive more training than the other employees do. Firefighters who work in internal structural firefighting must receive quarterly training. The quality of the training is to be comparable with the fire schools named in 29 CFR 1910.156, and oil refinery firefighters must receive training equivalent to Texas A&M University and similar schools named in the Code.
29 CFR 1910.146 requires rescue training practice at least every 12 months for permit space rescues.
OSHA Equipment Requirements
Interior structural firefighters must have protective clothing provided by the employer.The employer is required to see that the employees wear the clothing, including foot and leg protection, hand protection, head, eye and face protection, and body protection. There are extensive breathing apparatus regulations and helmet requirements detailed in 29 CFR 1910.156.
Respiratory protection equipment standards are covered under 29 CFR 1910.134 and fitting instructions, wearing practice and written procedures are required.
Other OSHA Requirements
The OSHA general duty clause requires employers to provide a safe place to work.
Employers are to inform employees of special hazards and have the information in writing, along with written provisions for actions to be taken regarding special hazards. This is to be included in training and education in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.156(c)(4).
Employers are responsible for seeing that firefighters are physically capable of the job and cannot allow employees with heart disease, epilepsy or emphysema to participate in firefighting emergency activities without physician's approval in writing under 29 CFR 1910.156 (b)(2).
Fire department employees who respond to hazardous materials incidents must have annual physical examinations under 29 CFR 1910.120.
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