Proposed Exhaustive (Worrisome?) Fire Company Rules Pending Public Comment – ​​Conduit Street

Proposed Exhaustive (Worrisome?) Fire Company Rules Pending Public Comment – ​​Conduit Street
Proposed Exhaustive (Worrisome?) Fire Company Rules Pending Public Comment – ​​Conduit Street

A federal rule-making process to dramatically expand a wide range of requirements on firefighting companies is currently subject to public comment. The rule, if allowed to go into full effect, may overburden fire companies – including many volunteer companies in Maryland. Representative organizations are asking stakeholders to relay their comments and help explain their practical concerns with the proposal.

On February 5, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to modernize the agency’s “Fire Brigades” standard with a proposed new “Emergency Response Standard.” This NPRM’s publication triggered the beginning of a public comment period that is scheduled to conclude June 21, 2024.

While many of the proposed provisions would be helpful and improve the safety of emergency responders, many of the new requirements would be very burdensome, and in many cases impossible, for volunteer fire and emergency service departments to comply with. If the standard is adopted in its current form, many departments would be forced to close their doors or else operate outside of the federal standard, leaving themselves open to fines, citations, and huge civil liability exposure.

From the OSHA website:

Update: The deadline for comment submission has been extended to June 21, 2024.

The Emergency Response proposed rule is here!
OSHA is happy to announce that the Emergency Response proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register and is now available for viewing.

OSHA welcomes and encourages the submission of public comments in response to this proposed rule. OSHA will be extending the window for comment submission. The comment period now ends on June 21, 2024.

Comments can be submitted to the Emergency Response Docket at

OSHA will also be hosting a public hearing, the date of which has yet to be determined. To ensure access to the hearing for all interested members of the public, remote access will be provided.

Additional information on OSHA’s rulemaking process and how stakeholders can participate is available at


Resources from the National Volunteer Fire Council outline the potential burdens on volunteer companies in states where volunteers, although a variety of measures, would be subject to the standards as “employees.” Maryland is among the many states where this appears to be the case.

From the NVFC website:

Proposed Standard – Read the proposed Emergency Response Standard in the Federal Register and submit a comment through the public comment portal (the public comment period has been extended from May 6 to June 21).

Outline of Proposed Emergency Response Standard – View a list of requirements that are included in OSHA’s proposed Emergency Response Standard.

Standards Incorporated by Reference – These NFPA Standards are incorporated by reference into the proposed OSHA rule. “Incorporated by Reference” means that the full text of these standards will become law if the proposed OSHA standard is adopted as-is.

More context from the online site

The changes include removing a very important provision – the two-in two-out requirement for structural firefighters – that is currently in 1910.134, the Respiratory Protection Standard, and incorporating it into the revised 1910.156. That provision, which changed OSHA’s traditional one-out standard applicable to general industry, to the current two-in-two-out for structural firefighters, was precedent setting when adopted in 1998.

The proposed changes are accessible here. The actual language of the new edition appears at the very end of this very very long document. Plan on several hours of reading to get to the proposed 1910.156 (or you can scroll down to the end).

OSHA is seeking commentary on the proposals. The comment period closes on May 6, 2024. (Note – since extended to June 21) While we certainly appreciate any comments you leave here on Fire Law Blog – those thoughts will not make a measurable difference with regard to OSHA’s plans. Please submit your comments to OSHA. Here are the instructions to do so:

You may submit comments and attachments, identified by Docket No. OSHA-2007-0073, electronically at, which is the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.

For a deeper review of the proposed regulations and their procedural impacts, see the YouTube-hosted video below from NVFC:

Proposed OSHA Emergency Response Standard Update and What It Means for Volunteer Fire Departments (

View more information on the proposed new standards, and the comment process, on the NVFC website.

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