New OSHA regulations will heavily impact fire departments

   Dan Romine and I spent several days in Arlington, VA at the spring meeting of the National Volunteer Fire Council. There were a couple of topics of major discussion that I want to make sure you are all aware of. The first has to do with reauthorization of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. Fortunately, on May 8th, the House of Representatives did pass the reauthorization of the act and it is headed to the Senate. I am hopeful that by the time you read this that the Senate has acted favorably and the bill will be on the way to the President’s desk for signature. Thanks to all that called or wrote their representatives in Congress - it does make a difference. 

   The second topic of discussion revolved around the new OSHA regulations that will heavily impact fire departments. Kansas is a non-OSHA state for public employers like fire departments in Kansas, so you might say this won’t impact us, but I believe that would not be correct. Kansas is non-OSHA for public entities only because Kansas has to have regulations in place at least as stringent as the federal OSHA regulations. So, there will be impact to Kansas and we in the fire service have to step up to the plate and get this stopped. I encourage you to visit the OSHA web page and place comments in there opposing this new federal overreach. Go to this website to navigate to the comment page: 

   Essentially this new rule will adopt 30 some odd NFPA standards as the law of the land. Included in those standards are that you will have no apparatus over 15 years old and that’s just one of many requirements. The rule is over 600 pages long and even though it says it doesn’t apply to volunteer departments they reference volunteer departments dozens of times in the documents. There is no exception for volunteer agencies despite what they say.

   We need to flood their website with comments. This is an overreaching federal rule that will cost the fire service hundreds of billions of dollars on an ongoing basis. If you are that fire department that operates on a five thousand dollar a year budget this will wreck your finances. You might say, well we will just ignore it - but what this rule does is make a regulation that will become the law of the land. If you violate it, you have the potential for third party liability. To explain that if they adopt this regulation, someone has a fire, and you fight the fire with a truck over 15 years old, you have the potential to be sued and to lose such a suit because of what they are doing to us. It is bad enough that many departments don’t have the money to have trucks under 30 years old and the cost of replacements that have gone through the roof, now we may face third party liability for failure to comply.

   Translate that into much, much higher insurance premiums even if you don’t ever get sued. This is a disaster. Think about how much your fourteen-year-old truck will be worth on a trade in - nothing. I don’t like to be negative, but the fire service has to come together on this. For volunteer departments the risk is enormous. For combination departments it will leave your department with having to choose between compliance and even having paid people on staff. For career departments the cost and risk is staggering. Some places will have to make the choice between wages and compliance with OSHA regulations. 

   There is some good stuff in this regulation most likely - ordering us to do things that we probably should already be doing to protect the health and safety of our firefighters, but the sweeping, overreaching nature of these regulations is throwing the baby out 

with the bath water. Please take some time to offer comments, because where there’s smoke... 




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