NFPA releases Standards Council decision on NFPA 1582 addressing possible legal, funding, and safety risks to fire departments
Today, NFPA released the NFPA Standards Council appeal decision on Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) 1689, upholding the appeal and overturning the Technical Committee on Emergency Responders Occupational Health (TC) ballot results - issuing TIA 1689 on the 2022 edition of NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Medical Program for Fire Departments. TIA’s are amendments to an NFPA standard outside of the ordinary revision cycle of a standard to address something needing immediate action. TIAs are tentative because the changes have not been processed through the entire standards-making procedures and is interim because it is effective only between editions of the standard. TIAs are automatically considered for the next edition of the standard; as such, it is subject to all of the procedures of the standards-making process.
Regular readers of this blog will recall that whenever I write about the NFPA standards development process, I make clear that the NFPA Standards Council accords great respect and deference to the work of the technical committees through the NFPA standards development process. The NFPA Standards Council, an appeals body, will only overturn the results of the technical process where there is a clear and substantial basis for doing so.
Their decision on TIA No. 1689, which revises NFPA 1582, presents such basis, to address potentially significant legal and federal funding risks to fire departments throughout the country and states:
“This is an untenable position for fire departments, candidates and members; and to the extent NFPA 1582 is potentially used as an instrument of discrimination, the Council is compelled to take action and issue the TIA that rectifies this immediate concern.”
Background on NFPA 1582
NFPA 1582 is a standard that provides information and guidance for physicians and other health care providers responsible for fire department occupational medical programs. The medical requirements and evaluation are intended to ensure that candidates and current members are medically capable of performing their required duties and will reduce the risk of occupational injuries and illnesses.
The 2022 edition of NFPA 1582 has different medical requirements for candidates (those who want to join a fire department or members looking to join a new department) and members (current active fire fighters). Significantly, there are a number of different health conditions (Category A Medical Conditions) which are applicable only to candidates and are deemed to preclude a person from getting a job as a firefighter.
The technical committee has received Public Input and Public Comments about this issue for more than 10 years that articulated concerns that such disparate treatment of candidates and members violates disability anti-discrimination laws, unfairly impacts a person applying to become a member of a fire department, and puts Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) at risk of using a discriminatory standard.
TIA 1689 was submitted in November of 2022, creating essentially a single set of medical requirements that are equally applicable to both members and candidates and track closely to the current requirements for incumbents. After balloting of the technical committee, TIA 1689 failed to receive the required votes to pass the ballot. Appeals were filed with Standards Council by Leslie Saucedo Baskir, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Office of Equal Rights, Pamela Williams, Grant Programs/FEMA, and Stan Haimes, M.D. University of Central Florida College of Medicine.
NFPA Standards Council Decision
The NFPA Standards Council decided to uphold the appeals requesting that the Council issue TIA No. 1689, which seeks to revise various paragraphs and combine several chapters of the standard to address significant concerns that it violates the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Council reviewed the entire record concerning this matter and considered all the arguments put forth in this appeal. In the view of the Council, this appeal presents a clear and substantial basis upon which to overturn the results yielded by the NFPA standards development process. The decision included these key points:
- The record is replete with documentation and comments reflecting concern that NFPA 1582 violates civil rights laws, exposes AHJs to risk by using a potentially discriminatory standard, and unfairly affects people applying for a firefighter job or looking to apply for a firefighter job in a new department.
- At the hearing, FEMA’s Director of the Office of Equal Rights stated that if NFPA 1582 is not amended to comply with civil rights law, it would “take action to address the offending standard outside of the NFPA standards process” and take action that may include “prohibiting physicals that adhere to NFPA 1582”, consider “compliance reviews of organizations that have received funds regarding their use of physical for hiring or recruitment of grant funded positions”, and noted that “[d]isallowing reimbursement of NFPA 1582 physicals for fire departments with existing grant awards…will add additional financial burden to many already finically-strapped departments…”
- The Council believes this is an untenable position for fire departments, candidates, and members; and to the extent NFPA 1582 is potentially used as an instrument of discrimination, the Council is compelled to act and issue the TIA that rectifies this immediate concern.
At the hearing, the Council heard from opponents to this appeal that the Technical Committee continues to work on a new TIA that is largely the same as TIA 1689, but with different aerobic capacity requirements. In the meantime, the Council encourages the Committee to continue its work.
The full decision can be found here.