Rep. Scott J. Guthrie (D-Dist. 28, Coventry) has introduced legislation to require all fire departments in Rhode Island to comply with minimum occupational safety and health standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Referred to the House Committee on Municipal Government, the Guthrie bill, 2013-H 5067, would require compliance with, at a minimum, the 1987 version of the NFPA standards and to provide a written plan of implementation to the state fire marshal by January, 2014.
“The NFPA standards were developed to provide a consensus standard for an occupational safety and health program for fire service,” said Representative Guthrie. “The intent of the standard is to provide a framework for a safety and health program for fire departments and other organizations providing similar services.”
“It has been 25 years since the NFPA standards were developed and there is still no minimum standard that has been adopted or implemented by fire departments in Rhode Island,” said Representative Guthrie. “During the last two and a half decades, those standards have been added to and improved, and our fire departments still have not acted to adopt the most minimum standards that were proposed in 1987. That’s pretty sad and it should also be a great concern to every firefighter in this state who is regularly exposed to dangerous situations.”
The legislation would transfer responsibility of enforcement of the standards from the Department of Labor and Training to the Fire Marshal. It would also create a seven-member NFPA 1500 implementation plan review committee, composed of an individual appointed by the RI League of Cities and Towns, two members named by the president of the RI State Association of Fire Fighters, two appointed by the president of the RI Fire Chiefs’ Association (one of whom shall represent a volunteer department); one member of the general public named by the Speaker of the House and one member of the general public appointed by the Senate President.
“The NFPA standards are not an outrageous imposition – financial or otherwise – on our state’s many fire departments,” said Representative Guthrie, a retired firefighter. “They exist for one, very important reason – to ensure that the firefighters in those departments can expect a minimum amount of nationally established safety and health protections, to keep them safe while they are rushing into burning buildings and saving the lives of people in our communities.”
The legislation was introduced as a result of the findings of a commission that Representative Guthrie co-chaired in 2011, the NFPA 1500 Implementation Plan Review Commission in the State of Rhode Island.
Co-sponsors of the bill are Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton), Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).