OSHA is looking at upgrading and better coordinating emergency-responder protections in the workplace. First responders are now covered by a hodge-podge of regs:

  • the fire brigade standard (29 CFR 1910.156);
  • hazardous waste operations and emergency response (29 CFR 1910.120);
  • the respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134);
  • the permit-required confined space standard (29 CFR 1910.146); and,
  • the bloodborne pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030).

OSHA concedes in its latest regulatory agenda (December 13, 2004) some of these standards were issued decades ago and none were designed as comprehensive emergency response standards.

States the agency: "They do not address the full range of hazards or concerns currently facing emergency responders. Many do not reflect major changes in performance specifications for protective clothing and equipment. Current OSHA standards also do not reflect all the major developments in safety and health practices that have already been accepted by the emergency response community and incorporated into National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and American National Standards Institute consensus standards."

What to do? Any firm action is likely years away, but OSHA has started collecting information to evaluate what course to take.