There are a number of misunderstandings about the applicability of OSHA regulations to the fire service, and even more misunderstandings about whether or not OSHA is applicable to volunteers. I made sure to cover those issues in both of my books, but for those interested the short answer is – OSHA regulations may apply to fire departments, and when they do it usually includes volunteer fire departments.
A recent case from Indiana gives us an opportunity to look at the laws. On May 26, 2010 the Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department responded to a report of two workers overcome in a well. The first two firefighters on scene arrived in their own vehicles and discovered two plumbers collapsed in a well. The firefighters attempted to rescue the downed workers and they themselves were overcome by a combination of fumes from muriatic acid and hydrogen sulfide.
The firefighters were rescued through the combined efforts of their own personnel and career firefighters from Muncie, who were trained for confined space rescue. Both firefighters required hospitalization. Unfortunately, the two plumbers died.
Last week it was disclosed that the Indiana Department of Labor cited the Liberty Township VFD with violating OSHA regulations by not training all personnel to at least confined space rescue awareness level. The citation, which was technically a “serious violation”, carried with it a $1,500 fine, However, the Indiana DOL opted to waive the fine.
Here is more on the story.
The bottom line is that in many states, fire departments can be cited by their state OSHA (often their state Department of Labor), for violating Federal OSHA regulations, and in many cases the scope of OSHA coverage extends to volunteers.