Occupational Health & Safety

NIOSH Proposes New Approach for Monitoring Responders' Health

Many organizations contributed to the draft framework, including OSHA, FEMA, the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA, and the American Red Cross.

NIOSH has proposed a new framework for monitoring the health and safety of emergency responders throughout the entire cycle of a response, saying the need for this was demonstrated after the 9/11 attacks a decade ago, Hurricane Katrina, and last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A consortium of federal agencies, state health departments, and volunteer organizations contributed to the draft document, "Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance," on which NIOSH seeks comments by 5 p.m. EDT April 1.

The 196-page document addresses everything from registering and credentialing responders at the start of a response to post-response medical surveillance and after-action assessment. Contributors to the document work for numerous agencies, including OSHA, FEMA, NIOSH, the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA, the New York City Fire Department, the California Department of Public Health, the American Red Cross, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the International Association of Fire Fighters.

According to NIOSH's Federal Register announcement, "The goals of this proposed system are to ensure that only properly trained and fit responders are deployed to a response, that the health and safety of all responders are appropriately monitored during a response, and that a systematic and comprehensive evaluation be conducted to determine the potential need for long term surveillance of responders' health after their deployment has been completed. This system will help to ensure that hazardous occupational exposures and signs and symptoms observed during an emergency response are utilized to mitigate adverse physical and psychological outcomes and determine whether protective measures are sufficient to prevent or reduce harmful exposures to workers. Data collected during the pre-, during-, and post-deployment phases will also help to identify which responders would benefit from medical referral and possible enrollment in a long-term health surveillance program."

Comments should be submitted to the NIOSH Docket Office, identified by Docket Number NIOSH-223, by one of these methods:

  • Mail: NIOSH Docket Office, Robert A. Taft Laboratories, MS-C34, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226.
  • Fax: 513-533-8285
  • E-mail: nioshdocket@cdc.gov

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