In January, OSHA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to replace the existing general industry Fire Brigade standard at 1910.156 with a new broader standard called “Emergency Response.”  Despite the name, the standard will still not be the same as the current HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response) standard, but HAZWOPER and other related standards will see still some minor changes and additions as a result of this effort.

The New Standard

The current Fire Brigade standard applies to general industry facilities that have in-house fire brigades, industrial fire departments, and private or contract fire departments.  This doesn’t include people trained to put out fires with fire extinguishers or standpipe hose systems, it’s actually for those companies with an in-house firefighting team. The new rule would include those same entities PLUS employers that provide pre-hospital emergency medical services, technical search and rescue services, or have employees that perform emergency services as their primary duties.  The new standard still stays more toward fire, rescue and medical-related emergency responses, not the hazardous materials spills that HAZWOPER is related to.

The new standard will divide companies into two groups.  One is “Emergency Service Organizations,” or ESOs, and the other is “Workplace Emergency Response Employers,” or WEREs.

Emergency Service Organizations pay employees, entities with volunteers, or entities that have both members and volunteers primarily to do response activities such as firefighting, EMS and technical search and rescue.  ESO employees in this function will be called “responders.”  The only volunteers covered in this standard are those who get significant pay or other compensation, which OSHA doesn’t believe there are many. Federal OSHA standards do not cover volunteers, but some state plans do.  If you are in an OSHA state plan state, check your state’s requirements regarding volunteers.

The other group, Workplace Emergency Response Employers, are companies where the employees have other primary jobs at the site and do emergency responses infrequently. The responses still involve firefighting, emergency medical services, and/or technical search and rescue. Individuals in WEREs will be called “team members” and the group of team members will collectively be called “Workplace Emergency Response Teams.”

The point of this new standard is to bring in more up-to-date consensus standards from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and to align better with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its National Incident Management System (NIMS) processes.  The Fire Brigades standard was written in 1980 with no significant changes, and thus is quite outdated.  The new standard is also aimed to move related items from other standards and get them into one place.

There will be a number of requirements for ESOs and WEREs including written Emergency Response Plans, Facility Vulnerability Assessments, and Pre-Incident Plans. Vulnerability assessments will analyze each area of the facility to determine which areas need pre-incident plans and if the equipment, firefighting capability and PPE is sufficient to handle a potential incident there. Additional medical and physical requirements, training, equipment and PPE, post-incident analysis, and incident management system development directions will be detailed.  The standard will not apply to cleanups or the aftermath of an incident, just the emergency portion.

Other Standards Affected

OSHA realizes that emergency response information is scattered throughout different parts of 1910 that need to be consolidated, and while they’re addressing emergency response, there are a number of NFPA and ANSI standards that are newer and relevant that also need to be included.  As a result, OSHA is proposing to make these additional standard changes:

1910.6            Incorporation by Reference

A number of newer ANSI and NFPA standards related to emergency response, fire, medical services response, and PPE will be added.

1910.120       HAZWOPER, including Subpart H Hazardous Materials

OSHA wants to add an Appendix D to include references to new consensus standards for personal protective equipment.  The specific NFPA standard referenced is NFPA 1990 – Standard for Protective Ensembles for Hazardous Materials and CBRN Operations [2022 ed]. These are standards for chemical protective suits.

Changes in standard text will include:

(q)(3)(iii) Based on the hazardous substances and/or conditions present, the individual in charge of the ICS shall implement appropriate emergency operations, and ensure that the personal protective equipment worn is appropriate for the hazards to be encountered. However, personal protective equipment shall meet, at a minimum, the criteria contained in § 1910.156(k) when worn while performing firefighting operations beyond the incipient stage for any incident.

(r) Appendices to this subpart—Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response. Appendices A through E to this subpart serve as non-mandatory guidelines to assist employees and employers in complying with the appropriate requirements of this section. However, paragraph (g) of this section makes mandatory in certain circumstances the use of Level A and Level B PPE protection set forth in the appendices.

Changes to Appendix B of Subpart H will read:


Level D

—Level D protection should be used when:

  1. The atmosphere contains no known hazard; and
  1. Work functions preclude splashes, immersion, or the potential for unexpected inhalation of or contact with hazardous levels of any chemicals.


As stated before, combinations of personal protective equipment other than those described for Levels A, B, C, and D protection may be more appropriate and may be used to provide the proper level of protection.

As an aid in selecting suitable chemical protective clothing, it should be noted that the NFPA has developed standards on chemical protective clothing. The standards that have been adopted include:

NFPA 1990, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Hazardous Materials and CBRN Operations, [2022 ed]. (as incorporated by reference, see § 1910.6).


This standard applies documentation and performance requirements to the manufacture of chemical protective suits. Chemical protective suits meeting these requirements are labelled as compliant with the appropriate standard. It is recommended that chemical protective suits that meet these standards be used.

1910.134       Respiratory Protection, including and Subpart I Personal Protective Equipment

OSHA will be removing the definition of Interior Structural Firefighting out of the respiratory protection standard and will be moving it to the new 1910.156.

1910.155       Subpart L, Fire Protection – Scope, application and definitions

A number of definitions will be removed from this section, while others will be added.

1910.157       Portable Fire Extinguishers

There currently is no mention of the Class K fire extinguisher, so revisions and additions will include:

(c)(3) The employer shall not provide or make available in the workplace portable fire extinguishers using carbon tetrachloride, chlorobromomethane, or methyl bromide extinguishing agents.

(d)(7) The employer shall distribute portable fire extinguishers of Class K extinguishing agent for use by employees so that the travel distance from the Class K hazard area to any extinguisher is 30 feet (9.15 m) or less.

1910.158       Standpipe and Hose Systems

Facilities will be required to have fire hose connections/adapters that are compatible with your local fire department or the WERE that’s pumping water into the emergency.

(c)(2)(iii) The employer shall ensure that standpipe system inlet connections and fittings are compatible with, or adapters are provided for, the fire hose couplings used by the fire department(s) or Workplace Emergency Response Team(s) that pump water into the standpipe system through the connections or fittings.

1910.159       Automatic Sprinkler Systems

Compatible adapters and equipment will be required here as well.

(c)(12) Inlet connections. The employer shall ensure that sprinkler system inlet connections and fittings are compatible with, or adapters are provided for, the fire hose couplings used by the fire department(s) or Workplace Emergency Response Team(s) that pump water into the sprinkler system through the connections or fittings.

The Regulation and Public Comment Period

You can read more about this new standard here.  Comments are being solicited until May 6, 2024.  Additional stakeholder meetings may also be held upon request.  iSi will keep an eye on this standard’s progress.

Need Help?

iSi can help with Grade D breathing air testing, required written plans, training and more! 

Compressed air, either through a fixed or a portable system, can be used to supply air to employees as they perform tasks that could not be done using an air purifying respirator.

Supplied air respirators are respirators that supply the user with breathing air from a source independent of the ambient atmosphere.

First we’ll take a look at breathing air components, then we’ll cover its OSHA requirements.

paint booth worker

What Operations Use Supplied Breathing Air?

Supplied breathing air can be used across all industries for many different functions throughout the facility.  Some of the most common include:

  • Confined Space Entry
  • Sand/Media Blasting Operations
  • Working in Paint Booths
  • Welding

What Are the Components of a Breathing Air System?

A simple breathing air system has four basic components.

Air Source

The air source can be from a fixed or portable compressor. This compressor can be either electric, gas or diesel powered. Another source can be from bottled or tanked air. The air source should be sized to provide a minimum of 4 cubic feet per minute (CFM), but depending on the work being done, workers may require up to 15 CFM. Typical systems operate around 10 to 12 CFM. Pay special attention to the intake area of the compressor to be sure that no gasses or vapors can be drawn into the system as they will be passed down to the employee.


The filtration used is very important. The filtration system should be able to remove water, oil and particles, and many use a charcoal bed to remove odors and tastes. Remember to make sure the filtration system can supply the required CFM. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a special danger if the air source is not an oilless compressor and a CO monitor with alarm is then required. This alarm needs to be able to be heard by everyone connected to the air source at their point of use.

Air Distribution

The filtered air then needs to be set to the proper pressure required by the specific respirator so a regulator will be needed to drop the air pressure and not overpressure the employee’s mask. Employees are able to connect to a breathing air system via quick connect couplings, OSHA requires these couplings to be unique to the breathing air system. This ensures that employees are unable to connect a respirator to a non-breathing air system (shop air). It is also a requirement that the hose the employee uses is a maximum of 300 feet.


The selected respirator can be of several varieties such as pressure demand or continuous flow, tight fitting face piece or loose-fitting hoods or helmets. These choices need to be made prior to the set up of the system as they can affect the design of the system. For example, if you are planning to use a continuous flow system a bottle supplied air source will not last very long.

breathing air system

What are OSHA’s Requirements for a Breathing Air System?

Breathing Air Gases Testing

The OSHA standard requires the employer provide employees using atmosphere-supplying respirators with breathing gases of high purity. To this end, OSHA has incorporated the ANSI/Compressed Gas Association Commodity Specification for Air, G-7.1 to include testing to meet the following:

  • Oxygen content percentage by volume: Between 19.5% and 23.5%
  • Hydrocarbon (oil and particulate): maximum of 5 milligrams per cubic meter of air
  • Carbon monoxide: maximum of 10 parts per million by volume
  • Carbon dioxide: maximum of 1000 parts per million by volume
  • Lack of noticeable odor

breathing testing

This breathing air gases are also commonly referred to as Grade D breathing air.  There are other grades of breathing air available that differ in oxygen content, hydrocarbons and water content that are used by fire departments and other SCBA wearers, but Grade D breathing air is the standard for industry.

While OSHA does not require breathing testing to be done on any interval, the industry standard for this testing is to be done annually for each distribution point.

Written Respiratory Protection Plan

Any company requiring employees to use respiratory protection must have a written Respiratory Protection Program that meets all the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.134.

Medical Evaluations

OSHA first requires the respirator user to be medically cleared to use a respirator. The doctor will need to know that the employee will be using a supplied air respirator so they can understand the physical requirements of the respirator being used.


OSHA then requires that all respirator users be trained on how to use their respirator, the limitations of that respirator and any procedures such as when the CO alarm goes off what needs to be done.


If the respirator selected is a tight fitting facepiece, OSHA requires a fit test to ensure the facepiece provides a proper seal to the users face.

Preventative Maintenance Plan

On a system that has a CO monitor, a preventive maintenance plan needs to be established to perform calibration on the monitor. Most manufacturers require monthly calibration with a certified canister of carbon monoxide gas. Calibration dates should be documented.

Questions?  Need Help?

iSi has Grade D breathing air system testing equipment and routinely conducts tests for our clients.  We can also help you with the other breathing air system requirements of OSHA.  Contact us today!

Need Help?

iSi can help with Grade D breathing air testing, required written plans, training and more! 


Keith Reissig

Industrial Hygienist | Project Manager

Keith brings over 20 years of industrial hygiene and safety experience to iSi and its clients. An industrial hygienist, Keith jokes that he "sucks air for a living."  He specializes in workplace exposure testing and sampling strategies, safety compliance, ergonomics and training in a variety of topics in both the industrial hygiene and safety field.

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