Senator Collins Questions Acting Secretary of Labor on Proposed Changes to Volunteer Fire Dept. Standards


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Washington, D.C. – Last week at an Appropriations hearing, U.S. Senator Susan Collins questioned Acting Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL) Julie Su on proposed changes by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that, in current form, would be detrimental to volunteer fire departments in rural communities in Maine and throughout the country.  Senator Collins is the Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee.


During Q&A, Senator Collins said:


I want to switch to another issue that I'm hearing a lot about in the State of Maine from our firefighters and our first responders, and that has caused me to focus on aspects of the new Emergency Response Standard proposed by OSHA in February.


When I talk to my small, rural volunteer fire departments, they have huge concerns about the compliance costs and the potential training requirements that this proposed standard would entail.  And indeed, OSHA itself has estimated nationwide compliance costs could exceed $100 million per year for volunteer fire departments alone.


When I talk to the larger cities in Maine, there are fewer problems with complying with the standards.


As your Department finalizes this standard, will you commit to working with small, rural volunteer fire departments to ensure that we don't, essentially, force them to close down, which would hurt public safety rather than help it?


Acting Secretary Su:


Yes, I will definitely commit to you that we will work with all stakeholders, but especially what you're saying, the voluntary and rural first responder forces that are so vital, both to make sure that we hear them, and that we produce a standard that keeps them safe as well.