OSHA revision of standard on respiratory protection incorporates two-in/two-out rule

OSHA revision of standard on respiratory protection incorporates two-in/two-out rule

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised a 25-year-old standard on respiratory protection. The new rule states (1) self-contained breathing apparatus is required in an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) atmosphere during interior structural firefighting, (2) firefighters entering a burning structure must do so in teams of at least two and remain in voice or visual contact with each other at all times, and (3) at least two other fully equipped and trained firefighters must be on standby if two firefighters are engaged in interior structural firefighting in the burning building (two-in/two-out).

Gary O. Tokle, NFPA assistant vice president, Public Fire Protection Division, points out that the revised OSHA standards are consistent with the following NFPA standards: 1500, Standard for Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program–1997; 1404, Standard on Fire Department Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus Program–1996; and 1981, Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus for the Fire Service–1997.

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) had lobbied for the two-in/two-out rule, which IAFF President Alfred K. Whitehead says “will cut the firefighter death rate by 25 to 40 percent.” Whitehead and Assistant Labor Secretary for OSHA Charles Jeffress were present at the January press conference during which the regulation was released by Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. Two Phoenix firefighters who had escaped serious injury but suffered burns in a December fire and the widow of a Chesapeake, Virginia, firefighter who died while fighting a fire in March 1996 also attended. The Phoenix department has long practiced the two-in/two-out standard; Chesapeake did not follow the rule, according to the IAFF.

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