OSHA has issued a guidance document, Best Practices for Protecting EMS Responders During Treatment and Transport of Victims of Hazardous Substance Releases, that addresses adequate training and personal protective equipment for emergency medical services responders who assist victims of hazardous substance release incidents, according to an agency press release.

This document, a companion to OSHA's Best Practices for Hospital-Based First Receivers, advises that employers provide, at a minimum, awareness level training to EMS responders. Workers receiving awareness-level training are not permitted to rescue or treat contaminated patients, but are responsible for notifying authorities if they suspect hazardous substances at a scene. Operations-level training teaches EMS responders skills for entering hazardous areas and caring for contaminated individuals.

"Healthcare workers, including EMS personnel, play a critical role in a community's emergency response program," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. "Emergency workers who protect the lives of victims at dangerous incidents should not risk becoming victims themselves because they lack proper training and protective clothing."

The guidance document helps employers to determine the type of training and PPE needed by anticipating the EMS responder's role in a worst-case scenario, identifying hazards associated with the responder's assigned duties, and developing an emergency response plan detailing safe accomplishment of those duties.