Long Island firefighters say new OSHA training requirements could strain volunteer fire departments

New OSHA regulations have some fire departments expressing concerns that they could deter people from becoming volunteer firefighters.

Currently, basic training for volunteer firefighters is 150 hours, but the new regulations could double that. 

"To tell a new person coming in, you have to do 50 days of 8-hour training…It’s not sustainable," said Myles Quinn of the Long Island Fire District’s Legislative Committee.

Long Island firefighters held a press conference Wednesday to say that the proposed changes to training requirements, medical screenings, and other mandates could hurt Long Island’s almost 180 volunteer departments, as well as fire departments throughout the state and nationwide.

"If OSHA is successful, the new requirements would create significant administrative and operational difficulties and ultimately compromise public safety, all while driving up the cost of providing fire protection," said Eugene Perry of FASNY.

OSHA, for their part, says the proposed rule is to "better protect emergency responders" adding "rule making will not change individual state discretion regarding coverage of volunteers in any way."

But firefighters and officials say if passed New York State, which follows OSHA standards, would have no choice but to comply.

"Undue mandates without a seat at the table is simply unacceptable," said Suffolk County Legislator Dominick Thorne.

According to the National Volunteer Fire Council, the time donated by volunteer firefighters saves the country almost $47 billion annually. New York State volunteers save residents almost $4 billion annually in additional property taxes by donating their time and efforts.

If OSHA moves forward with the regulations, volunteer fire departments may be forced to close or increase property taxes to comply with the new rules.