On December 21, 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) unveiled an unofficial version of its proposed Emergency Response Rule. The Emergency Response Rule, if finalized, would replace an existing rule applicable to firefighters with a much broader rule that also covers emergency medical personnel and search-and-rescue workers. The Rule aims to resolve what the agency has described as a “patchwork” of unrelated standards for emergency workers and will address a variety of workplace hazards, including exposure to toxic chemicals, equipment failures, infectious diseases, and the mental health impact of first-responder positions.
The proposal explains that out of 273 emergency response fatalities recorded in the Occupational Safety and Health Information System, “OSHA identified 212 (77.7%) [fatalities] in which at least one of the safety hazards addressed by the proposed rule was determined to be present at the time of the emergency responder’s death.” The proposal notes that the rule would apply to all privately employed responders and exclude “employers engaged in activities and operations regulated by OSHA’s construction, maritime, and agriculture standards” and volunteer emergency responders. The Emergency Response Rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register later this month.