Should police get workplace protections?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is considering the first standards to protect law enforcement officers and other emergency responders from occupational hazards, the agency announced this week. 

OSHA said it was motivated to act by the chemical plant explosion in West, Texas, last year that killed 15 people, mostly emergency responders.

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"Emergency response is one of the most hazardous occupations in America," OSHA wrote in the Federal Register. "Emergency responders include firefighters, emergency medical service personnel, hazardous material employees, and technical rescue specialists. Also, law enforcement officers usually are considered emergency responders because they often assist in emergency response incidents."

OSHA will hold a series of meetings in July with stakeholders, such as law enforcement officials and firefighters, to discuss a new standard for emergency response and preparedness.

Many public interest groups and unions have criticized OSHA for not doing enough to protect workers from occupational hazards. 

Keith Wrightson, workplace safety advocate at Public Citizen, suggested the new emergency response standards should include protective clothing and equipment, training, respiratory protections and medical surveillance for firefighters who have been exposed to hazards. 

“Emergency responders, the nation’s bravest workforce, have been historically denied OSHA protections," Wrightson told The Hill. "It is time for the Obama administration to step up and create new workplace protections for those whose sole mission is to protect us from harm and danger.”