In This Section

News and Articles


American Society of Safety Professionals is your source for insights on trends in the safety profession, including developments in safety management, worker safety, government and regulatory affairs and standards.


ASSP Supports Emergency Response Rule, Urges OSHA to Review Industry Standards

Jun 19, 2024

In February 2024, OSHA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for an Emergency Response Standard. It would replace the existing Fire Brigades Standard, broaden the scope of emergency responders covered and incorporate programmatic elements to protect those workers from occupational hazards.

ASSP has submitted technical comments for the record based on input from members in industries that would be impacted by the proposed standard, particularly our Fire Protection Practice Specialty.

“Protecting workers from fire hazards is a critical component of workplace safety,” the Society says, citing the fact that ASSP was founded shortly after the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911.

General Overview

Overall, ASSP supports OSHA’s direction with this proposed standard and members’ comments focused on several key issues:

  • The proposed rule should improve emergency response operations and it would clarify the responsibilities of emergency responders and the role of the organization.
  • The proposed rule will pose significant implementation challenges for organizations and occupational safety and health professionals due to limited resources, including access to technical guidance from OSH professionals.
  • Many emergency practices and procedures have been in use for decades, and regulating some of these practices may negatively impact future innovations.
  • ASSP members were disappointed that OSHA did not recognize any ANSI/ASSP voluntary consensus standards even though those documents address issues addressed by the proposed rule.

In addition, more work is needed on the transportation component of the proposed standard.

Technical Comments

Members voiced agreement with the conclusion by law firm Ogletree Deakins that “one of the biggest issues associated with the proposed standard is the absence of specific definitions, action levels and exposure limits, which makes the compliance expectations unclear.”

Our members also agree with the firm’s concerns about applying an incident command system (ICS) to essentially all emergency response situations. “While ICS has been used for decades in firefighting, its primary use in the other covered types of emergency response is in conjunction with responses to major events where responders from multiple organizations deploy personnel,” the firm explains.

ASSP members concur, noting that most EMS providers work alone and/or in conjunction with a small group of responding units where the high degree of coordination and control of an ICS is not necessary. The proposed standard also fails to acknowledge that delays in response created by this provision could be troublesome in smaller or rural communities where times to answer calls tend to be longer than in more populous/better resourced municipalities.

No Mention of Consensus Standards

We recognize the proposed rule addresses emergency response, an issue covered by several ANSI/ASSP voluntary consensus standards, but none were recognized in the proposed rule. The Society urges OSHA to reconsider this and review the standards on topics such as walking/working surfaces (A1264); ventilation systems (Z9); confined spaces (Z117.1); lockout, tagout and alternative methods (Z244.1); fall protection and fall restraint (Z359); hydrogen sulfide training (Z390.1); OSH training (Z490); and risk management (ISO 31000).

Technical Questions

ASSP’s statement addresses many of the questions OSHA included in the broad-ranging NPRM, several of which are highlighted here.

Search and Rescue

One question was specific to the types and levels of search and rescue services the proposed rule should cover. Again, ASSP shared its disappointment that none of the ANSI/ASSP voluntary national consensus standards were listed as references since they specifically address many of the scenarios noted in the proposed rule. These include:

  • Safety Requirements for Excavation (A10.12-2022)
  • Emergency Procedures for Construction and Demolition Sites [A10.26-2011 (R2016)]
  • Protection of the Public on or Adjacent to Construction Sites (A10.34-2021)
  • Confined Spaces in Construction and Demolition Operations (A10.43-2016)
  • Safety Requirements for Entering Confined Spaces (Z117.1-2022)
  • Safety Requirements for Assisted-Rescue and Self-Rescue Systems, Subsystems and Components [Z359.4-2013 (R2022)]
  • Safety Requirements for Self-Retracting Devices for Personal Fall Arrest and Rescue Systems (Z359.14-2021)

Response on Disaster Sites

The agency also asked for comments on developing a separate rule to protect workers involved in the clean-up of disaster sites and associated recovery efforts. ASSP notes that the long-standing OSHA Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HazWOPER) Standard already protects these workers.

“The better approach would be to revise the current rule and include the specific requirements that OSHA believe are missing,” ASSP says. “Having a separate rule with the potential for duplication and conflict would be potentially difficult for occupational safety and health professionals to implement in the workplace.”

Employee Engagement

OSHA is also considering a provision that would allow employee representatives to be involved in developing and implementing an emergency response plan and participating in walkaround inspections along with team members and responders.

“Our members would like to see additional clarification” to ensure consistent language in rules to avoid duplication and conflict. In making this request, ASSP reiterated its strong support of the key role of employee engagement in OSH.

Risk Management Plan

Regarding the proposal that the rule include a list of minimum requirements for the risk management plan, ASSP encouraged OSHA to review several well-known and recognized ANSI/ASSP risk assessment and risk management standards. These include:

  • Risk Management — Guidelines (ANSI/ASSP/ISO 31000-2018)
  • “Technical Report: Risk Management — A Practical Guide” (ASSP/ISO TR-31000-2022)
  • Risk Management — Risk Assessment Techniques (ANSI/ASSP/ISO/IEC 31010-2019)
  • “Technical Report: Risk Management — Techniques for Safety Practitioners” (ASSP TR-31010-2020)
  • Risk Management — Vocabulary (ANSI/ASSP/ISO 31073-2022)

ASSP also notes that addressing this topic offers OSHA an opportunity to raise recognition and awareness of the importance and significance of prevention through design, a topic further explained in two ANSI/ASSP documents:

  • Prevention through Design Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Hazards and Risks in Design and Redesign Processes (ANSI/ASSP Z590.3-2021)
  • “Technical Report: Prevention through Design - A Life Cycle Approach to Safety and Health in the Construction Industry” (ASSP TR-A10.100-2018)

“OSH professionals can use these principles to conduct a life-cycle assessment and develop a design model that balances OSH goals over the lifespan of a facility, process or product. The concepts would/could potentially apply to emergency response.”

Infection Control

The proposed rule may also require implementation of a performance-based infection control program as part of any risk management plan. ASSP encourages OSHA to reference “Technical Report: Occupational Health and Safety Management: Guidelines for Organizations on Preventing, Controlling and Managing Infectious Diseases” (ASSP/ISO TR-45006-2024), which is applicable to organizations of all sizes and sectors.

Retiring PPE 

The agency also proposed the idea of specifying retirement age(s) for PPE, an approach ASSP strongly opposes. Based on experience in standards development, imposing artificial timelines like this requires significant work and often leads to polarizing debate among stakeholders.

“The last thing OSHA should do is put itself in the position of potentially going against manufacturer instructions,” ASSP advises. The Society’s comment contains an appendix of detailed member comments on this topic.

Occupant and Patient Restraints

In the broad-ranging proposal, OSHA asked for comments on when to require or exclude, the use of seat belts and vehicle harnesses. Again, ASSP points to a consensus standard (ANSI/ASSP Z15.1) that addresses occupant restraints including safety belts, infant seats, child safety seats, booster seats and supplemental restraint systems (e.g., airbags). The standard also calls on employers to follow applicable state laws. Where no state law exists, the standard requires organizations to implement a policy requiring occupants in all seating positions to use occupant restraints. With respect to patient restraint, ASSP referred OSHA to applicable NFPA standards (1500 and 1451).

Workplace Violence

OSHA also asked about requiring standard operating procedures to specifically address measures to protect emergency responders from workplace violence. ASSP encourages OSHA to review “Technical Report: How to Develop and Implement an Active Shooter/Armed Assailant Plan” (ASSP TR-Z590.5-2019).

Heat Stress Prevention

Proposed provisions related to heat stress specific to emergency responders was another point of interest, especially given OSHA’s current work on a proposed rule for heat illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. ASSP supports a separate OSHA heat standard and agrees the issue should be addressed in different standards provided there is a cohesive approach.

“We also suggest that OSHA review ANSI/ASSP A10.50-2024, Standard for Heat Stress Management in Construction and Demolition Operations,” ASSP says. “While it applies to construction and demolition operations, it would be of value to OSHA when reviewing heat hazards and exposures with outdoor environments.”

ASSP OSHA Fire Brigade Comments for June 2024

Are You Passionate About Safety?

Volunteer with ASSP today.

Get involved


Jumpstart Your Learning

Access our latest free webinars, articles and more.

Advance Your Career

Earning an ASSP certificate can enhance your career.

Get Insight & Analysis

Learn about the latest trends in safety management, government affairs and more.

Connect With ASSP