The Editor’s Opinion Page
The Big Threat Isn’t OSHA
In those states that have an agreement with the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration to handle enforcement of OSHA regulations themselves, there is increasing concern in the fire service. In states that have assumed the responsibility to enforce OSHA regulations, these regulations apply to all fire fighters—paid and volunteer, municipal and industrial.
In this era of even tighter budgets, fire chiefs are concerned about how they can obtain funds to buy the personnal protective equipment, including breathing apparatus, that meet the OSHA standards. Volunteer fire departments that raise most or all of their operating funds themselves face an even greater problem.
Hopefully, state OSHA authorities will take a reasonable attitude toward departments with fiscal problems and accept the efforts of a department that develops a realistic plan to replace equipment over a period of two or three years.
The real threat to a community’s financial structure, however, is not compliance with state OSHA requirements, but the threat of legal suits over the death or permanent injury of a fire fighter. How failure to comply with federal and state regulations for fire fighter safety will affect a liability suit is yet to be tested in court, but it is not a test any community can risk without grave concern.
Perhaps that threat will make local governments act now to provide their paid and volunteer fire fighters with the protective equipment they deserve.