Friday, February 3, 2023

Redo of Rules for Fire Fighter Protective Clothing Inching Ahead

What is the status of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Standards Board review and revision of the regulations for fire fighters’ personal protective clothing and equipment?

Revisions have been underway for several years, but are not yet approved for public hearing and comments.

The regulations appear as Article 10.1, Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment for Fire Fighters, Sections 3401–3411 of the General Industry Safety Orders.

The last revisions to Article 10.1 occurred between 1985 and 1997, with the majority occurring in 1985.

Legislative Direction

On September 29, 2014, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. approved AB 2146 (Skinner; D-Berkeley; Chapter 811), directing the Cal/OSHA Standards Board to convene an advisory committee by January 1, 2016 to evaluate whether changes are needed to align the state regulations relating to personal protective clothing and equipment for fire fighters with standards promulgated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

The advisory committee’s findings and recommendations were to be presented to the Board by July 1, 2016. The Board was to decide by July 1, 2017 whether to adopt changes to Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, or other applicable standards and regulations in order to maintain alignment with the NFPA standards.

The Board conducted three advisory committees, beginning in October 2015 and ending in the second quarter of 2016.

NFPA revisits and reviews the affected regulations every five years. AB 2146 requires the Board to review revisions to the NFPA standards and consider modifying the state safety standards where necessary.

Hearing Notice Pending

According to a conversation with a member of the Board staff, the protective clothing/equipment regulations have been reviewed, revised, presented to the advisory committee and discussed; revisions have been made where concerns were raised, and the rulemaking package has been developed.

The package has been submitted to the staff at the Labor and Workforce Development Agency for a review of the financial impact statement. Upon approval of that statement, a notice will be issued that the rulemaking is open for comment and public hearing.

Proposed Revisions

A review of the proposal sent to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency shows that several definitions are being repealed. This is because two lengthy NFPA standards are being adopted by reference and these definitions could result in conflicting or inconsistent definitions as contained in the referenced documents.

Those documents are NFPA 1971: Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, and NFPA 1851: Standard on Selection, Care and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting.

• New Section 3402.1 contains personal protective equipment (PPE) purchase quality standards. It states that purchases must be in compliance with NFPA 1971 (2013). If the PPE purchase meets a newer edition standard, however, then the PPE would be deemed in compliance.

• New Section 3402.3, addressing the selection, care and maintenance of PPE, will reference NFPA 1851 (2014).

• New Section 3408 relocates Personal Alert Safety System from Section 3401 and incorporates NFPA 1982 (2007) by reference to reflect apparent design problems in the earlier referenced 1982.

Adopt as Reference Documents

The following lists NFPA standards proposed for adoption as reference documents. In some cases, there is more than one NFPA standard of the same number but with a different effective date. The earlier date is addressing equipment that is presently in service and will eventually be phased out.

• Helmet, eye or face protection, hoods, protective clothing, hand protection or footwear. NFPA 1971 (2013) Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting or Proximity Fire Fighting. Also referenced: NFPA 1971 (2007).

• NFPA 1977 (2016) Protective Clothing and Equipment for Wildland Fire Fighting. NFPA 1977 (2011) Selection, Inspection, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Wildland Fire Fighting.

• NFPA 1851 (2014) Selection, Inspection, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting.

• NFPA 1852 (2013) Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

• NFPA 1981 Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus for Emergency Services.

• American National Standard Z 87.1 (2010).

• 5100-606C (August 22, 2011) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Specifications for Forest Fire Shelter.

The complete advisory committee history and proposal can be found in the Board’s 2016 advisory committee archives at www.dir.ca.gov/oshsb/advisorycommittees2016.html.


Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.

Staff Contact: Mel Davis

Mel Davis
Mel Davis
Mel Davis joined the CalChamber in 2000 as a Cal/OSHA adviser specializing in Cal/OSHA and safety-related matters. He worked for Cal/OSHA for more than 23 years as a principal safety engineer and construction safety engineer. His responsibilities included managing the technical staff responsible for developing and revising California safety and health regulations, evaluating requests for variances from regulations, and conducting complaint and accident investigations at all types of construction sites.

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