|2008 WORLD SAFETY CONFERENCE & EXPOSITION PREVIEW
2009 Code Changes
At the NFPA World Safety Conference & Exposition® in June, the NFPA membership will consider technical changes to 15 codes and standards. Here are significant changes to four of them:
NFPA Journal®, May/June 2008
By Alisa Wolf
You've probably heard over and over that NFPA codes and standards are living documents with set revision cycles. Take a look at some of the changes due out at the end of the 2008 cycle, and you'll see that this is no cliché. NFPA's process for codes and standards development allows for safety requirements to evolve from one cycle to the next, in response to a complex range of issues that address user feedback, advances in technology, research, fires, and lessons learned from incidents. The results are guidelines that document the way we live today and that point our attention to future trends and developments.
The work of the technical committees during this cycle, notably those that develop NFPA 101, continued to be influenced by studies of the 9/11 World Trade Center collapse and lessons learned from the tragedy at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, in 2003. The potential threat of terrorist attack is also a concern for users of NFPA 59A, a standard that has always sought to address the issue of plant location. These security concerns, along with industry growth, prompted users of NFPA 59A to request updated models to help situate new plants in a way that mitigates the threat of a potential LNG spill to neighboring people and properties.
Another concern, the statistical rise in incidents of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning reported by fire departments from 2003 to 2005, has influenced changes in NFPA 720.1 The rise in public awareness of CO hazards and an increase in local legislation addressing the issue are also factors the new edition takes into account. And finally, the new edition of NFPA 70E represents the work of that committee to distinguish the standard from NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®, (NEC®) by clarifying the language and tailoring it to the growing industry demand for safe electrical work practices.
Changes to NFPA 59A, Production, Storage, and Handling of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)
The production, storage, and handling of LNG has come a long way since 1944, when an improperly designed storage tank cracked, spilling natural gas into the streets and sewer system of Cleveland, Ohio. The spill resulted in a fire at the Cleveland Clinic Hospital, which led to the deaths of 125 people. Changes in requirements since then, including a requirement for a natural barrier, dike, or impounding wall to contain a spill, as well as changes in metallurgy design requirements, have ensured that no similar tank failure could take place. In fact, more than 60 years have passed without another such incident, despite a steady increase in worldwide demand for natural gas. It's a track record the industry would like to keep.
To this end, the technical committee for NFPA 59A has worked to meet the requests of code users for new models to help them determine how far away to situate a plant from its neighbors to ensure ongoing safety. According to Theodore Lemoff, NFPA's principal gases engineer and staff liaison to NFPA 59A, other expected changes to the code include revisions of existing chapters and the addition of a new one.
- Testing to develop new vapor dispersion protocols: The code committee enlisted NFPA's Fire Protection Research Foundation to develop protocols for determining safe distances by evaluating vapor dispersion models, known as model evaluation protocols (MEP). The tests took into consideration potential incidents, adjacent activities, weather patterns, and other natural hazards that might influence a spill that does not ignite. The Foundation used the newly developed MEP to evaluate three existing vapor dispersion models, applying the new protocols to evaluate future models. The new MEP is available for download from NFPA's website to help users, such as permit issuers and model developers, evaluate existing and future models of vapor dispersion.
- Testing to measure radiant heat: A second study, which was conducted by an independent LNG expert, measured the thermal radiation, also known as radiant heat, that would result from an LNG fire. The tests were related to radiant heat absorbed by humans through various clothing. Results from these tests showed that the standard's existing heating values of 1,600 BTU, 3,000 BTU, and 10,000 BTU are already conservative and will remain unchanged.
- Revision to the design spill tables: The code recognizes that, though improbable, certain spills may occur. The revisions clarify the requirements for two types of tanks, those with penetration below the liquid level and those with penetration above the liquid level.
- Addition of seismic design requirements for earthquakes: This provision applies to LNG containers on offshore platforms.
- Reorganization of chapters involving training, fire protection safety, and security: Chapters 4, 12, and 14 have been revised to be more user-friendly.
- Change in fire hazard nomenclature: The phrase "thermal radiation," which can cause confusion among lay people who think it means nuclear fallout, will be changed in the next edition of the code to "radiant heat."
- Revised definitions for "single containment container" and "double containment container": The revised definitions provide clarification for both types of containers.
- Addition of Chapter 15: The new chapter, "Performance-Based Alternative Standard for Plant Siting," is considered a mandatory annex.
Changes to NFPA 70E, Electrical Safety in the Workplace
The NFPA 70E committee reviewed 570 proposals and more than 700 comments on those proposals during the development of the 2009 edition of this standard. The impact of these changes on the standard is a marked improvement in its usability. One such example is the deletion of Chapter 4, which was regarded as a summary of the NEC, largely repeating what is already published in the electrical code, says Jim Dollard, safety coordinator for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 98 of Philadelphia and a member of the NFPA 70E Technical Committee. The deletion streamlines the standard, he says.
This increased scrutiny of the language in NFPA 70E corresponds to an increase in awareness among segments of the industry about the importance of safe practices in the workplace. While big organizations, such as large petroleum and pharmaceutical companies, have been fully aware of the cost benefits of avoiding workplace injuries, smaller construction companies are now coming on board in greater numbers. This is due, in part, to pressure from building owners, who may be liable in third-party civil suits, for safe work plans on all construction sites. Committee members have seen a significant increase in concern about workplace safety since the standard's inception in 1976, and they expect it to grow in the future.
According to Ray Jones, principal consultant of Electrical Safety Consulting Strategies, Inc. and chair of the NFPA 70E Technical Committee, other changes to NFPA 70E include:
- Revision of Article 320, Safety Requirements Related to Batteries and Battery Rooms: The new edition will align language and requirements with other American national standards.
- Addition of Article 350, Safety-Related Work Requirements: Research and Development Laboratories: This new article provides information for minimizing exposure to electrical hazards in research and development laboratories, which may use equipment uniquely designed and constructed for discovering new concepts or developing a method to use a new discovery.
- Revision of Annex F to include risk analysis: Annex F was revised to illustrate a process to analyze both hazards and risk. With information from these analyses, a supervisor or worker should be able to determine whether the risk of injury is acceptable or unacceptable. After completing the hazard analysis and risk analysis, a worker or supervisor has the critical information to determine if an anticipated work task might be performed without injury.
- New Annex O, Safety-Related Design Information: System design determines how a worker might be exposed to an electrical hazard. This new annex suggests that during the design process, employers should consider how workers might be exposed to electrical hazards, and make design adjustments accordingly.
Changes to NFPA 101, Life Safety Code
The collapse of New York City's World Trade Center (WTC) following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, galvanized building and fire-safety professionals worldwide. In its 2005 report on the collapse, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) called for "timely, expedited considerations of recommendations" stemming from its three-year investigation into the factors contributing to the "probable cause (or causes) of post-impact collapse" of the WTC towers. NFPA 101 committee members responded to NIST's request by introducing several changes to the 2009 edition of the Life 2008Safety Code related to high-rise safety and evacuation, outlined here. The 2003 and 2006 editions of NFPA 101 also addressed several provisions before the release of the NIST study.
According to Ron Coté, P.E., NFPA's principal life-safety engineer and a staff liaison for NFPA 101, other expected changes address issues that have arisen in various other occupancy types. These changes also apply to NFPA 5000®, Building Construction and Safety Code®, unless otherwise noted.
- Elevator use in emergencies: A new adoptable annex, Annex B, offers criteria for keeping smoke from reaching elevator lobby smoke detectors and water from reaching the hoistway to extend the safe use of an elevator early in a fire. If smoke can be kept away from detectors, high-rise building occupants may be able to continue to use elevators, as long as communications systems are also provided to let them know, in real time, the operating status of the elevators. These guidelines would also require an exit stair enclosure immediately adjacent to the elevator lobby to provide egress for occupants waiting in the lobby once the elevator has been called out of service. Existing requirements for the number of means of egress and egress capacity still apply, and like the next annex, these requirements must be specifically adopted to be enforceable.
- Supplemental evacuation equipment: Adoptable, as opposed to being automatically applicable upon adoption of the main body of the code, Annex C addresses two forms of escape systems designed to augment high-rise evacuations. The first is the controlled descent device, which lowers one or two people, each wearing a rescue harness, at a controlled rate from an upper level to the ground or other safe location. The second is the enclosed platform rescue system, which provides platforms that move vertically along guides or other means on the exterior of a building to evacuate multiple occupants or transport emergency responders to upper levels of a building. The provisions help prevent supplemental evacuation equipment from interfering with the normal egress systems or creating unsafe conditions due to misuse. They do not replace the normal means of egress requirements, as contained in Chapters 1 through 43 of the code.
- Electrically controlled egress doors: During an evacuation, high-rise occupants may have to open electrically controlled egress doors that are secured in the closed position by an electromagnet, which can delay their escape. This change provides that such doors are to be treated in the same manner as traditional doors that are mechanically opened, provided the release hardware is affixed to the door leaf, has an obvious method of operation using only one hand, interrupts power directly to the lock, and unlocks the door in the direction of egress. The new text makes it clear that such electrically controlled egress doors are not the same as the special locking arrangements addressed in Section 22.214.171.124, but rather a normal form of door that meets the criteria for having an obvious method of operation under all lighting conditions and that does not require more than one releasing operation.
- Locking of elevator lobby exit access doors: This change is a code-sanctioned workaround to the requirement that occupants in an elevator lobby have access to an unlocked door. This requirement, which has caused security issues, is being revised to permit the door to be locked, as long as 15 required features are provided. These criteria will be detailed in the code and include such 81requirements for the building as a two-way communication system between the elevator lobby and central control point, a fire alarm system where initiation by other than a manual fire alarm box unlocks the lobby door, complete building sprinklering, an elevator lobby protected by smoke detectors, and trained staff that are authorized to provide emergency assistance.
- Inspection of door openings: Consisting of a detailed menu for means of egress inspections required in the Life Safety Code's occupancy chapters for assembly, educational, day-care, and residential board and care occupancies, this requirement offers guidelines that must be followed to prevent doors from not closing fully, failing to open, or otherwise not maintained. This change does not apply to NFPA 5000.
- Exit stair path markings: If people can't find their way through smoke, or if emergency lighting fails in a stairwell, glow-in-the-dark or photo-luminescent materials or coatings can help. This edition will not require the use of such markings, but a menu of best practices for exit stair path marking will be included for optional use.
- Area of refuge communication systems: Two-way communication systems, with audible and visible signals, will be required in areas of refuge, even where the building is sprinklered. In previous editions, sprinklering the building allowed the entire floor to be considered an area of refuge, without the need for a two-way communication system. The new requirement will put the Life Safety Code in the forefront of providing people with disabilities a level of fire safety approaching that provided to people who can use the exit stairs.
- Remoteness of exit accesses and exit discharges: For many editions, the code required that exit doors and exit access doors be remotely located from other exit doors and exit access doors to minimize the possibility that multiple ways out of a building could be blocked at the same time. This change extends the same remoteness criteria to exit access paths to doors and exit discharge paths away from the building.
- Educational occupancy corridor door closer exemption: In sprinklered educational occupancies, corridor walls and doors need not be fire-rated but must form smoke-resisting partitions. The change will permit classroom door closers to be omitted, so that school staff can keep doors open for security reasons without compromising safety. Evacuation drills, as required by the code, can be used to train staff and students to close classroom doors when exiting under fire conditions.
- Locking health-care occupancy doors for patient protection: For many editions, the code has permitted locked doors in health-care occupancies where the clinical needs of patients require specialized security measures, as in psychiatric and Alzheimer units. The change will permit doors to be locked where needed for patient protection or security—to guard against infant abduction from nurseries, for example. If doors are locked, however, additional features and systems itemized in the code must also be met.
- Provisions for health-care, educational, and day-care occupancy alcohol-based hand-sanitizer dispensers: The provisions related to the installation of alcohol-based hand-sanitizer dispensers in the rooms and corridors of health-care occupancies are being expanded beyond liquid and gel solutions to include Level 1 aerosols. In addition, the educational and day-care occupancy chapters will introduce the original dispenser provisions related to liquid and gel solutions, but these are allowed only in rooms, not corridors. Aerosols have not yet been included in the chapters related to these occupancies.
- Alarm occupant notification via public address systems in assembly occupancies and mercantile malls: Previous editions of the Life Safety Code permitted the day-to-day use of a public address system to direct occupants to evacuate or relocate when the 2008fire alarm system was activated. Now, use of the public address system for occupant notification in new construction is limited to sites such as large assembly occupancies and malls, where occupant notification in accordance with NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm Code®, might not be optimal due to sound quality and power requirements. The change will remove from new business occupancies and new mercantile occupancies other than malls the option of using the public address system to notify occupants of fire.
- Sprinklering all existing high-rise health-care occupancies: All existing high-rise buildings housing health-care occupancies will be required to be sprinklered within 12 years of the adoption of the 2009 edition of the Life Safety Code. All new health-care occupancies and all existing nursing homes, regardless of building height or number of stories, must be sprinklered, according to current editions of the code. This change does not apply to NFPA 5000.
- Bedrooms of new apartment buildings required to have smoke alarms, even when sprinklered: This change will require alarms in all bedrooms of new apartment buildings, regardless of the presence of sprinklers, making the smoke alarm requirements for new apartment buildings consistent with those for new one- and two-family dwellings.
- Sprinklers required in new apartment buildings, without exception: This change will require that all new apartment buildings be sprinklered without exception, making the sprinkler requirement for new apartment buildings consistent with that for new one- and two-family dwellings.
- Travel distance not regulated on unenclosed stairs in open parking structures: The travel distance limitations for open parking structures are being changed to permit unlimited travel on unenclosed stairs. Unenclosed stairs in open parking structures are not expected to become smoke-logged. The open stairs are expected to remain usable well into the fire.
Changes to NFPA 720, Installation of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Warning Equipment in Dwelling Units
NFPA 720 was a recommended practice in its earliest editions. It was not written in mandatory language, so it was not enforceable. It evolved into an enforceable standard during a special, expedited two-year cycle that resulted in the 2005 edition.
Since then, a rise in publicized incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning has led to more consumer education efforts, heightened public awareness, and more local legislation for the expanded use of CO alarms and detectors. According to Lee Richardson, NFPA's senior electrical engineer and staff liaison to NFPA 720, the committee for the 2009 edition of NFPA 720 is responding to these trends by expanding its scope in several ways:
- New title: NFPA 720 will become the Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection and Warning Equipment.
- Change in scope: As indicated by the new title, the scope of NFPA 720 will apply to carbon monoxide detection and warning in all buildings and structures, not just dwelling units. Previous editions of NFPA 720 limited the scope of the application to dwelling units. The requirement to install CO alarms or detectors in any occupancy will naturally depend on the adoption of NFPA 720 by local jurisdictions.
- Commercial CO detection systems requirements: These requirements, which are similar to those found in NFPA 72, will be contained in Chapters 1 through 8 of NFPA 720 and will address the unique aspects of CO detection.
Chapter 9 will contain the requirements for CO alarms and household CO detection systems. The expected updates to this chapter include:
- CO alarms or detectors required on every level of the home: This requirement includes basements, but excludes crawl spaces. The previous edition of the code only required CO detectors outside the sleeping areas of the house.
- Electrically powered units in new homes required to have battery backup: No battery backup was required in the previous edition. However, the requirement for existing construction remains the same; only battery power will be mandatory.
- Interconnected CO alarms required in new home construction: The code will require that CO alarms be interconnected in all new homes.
Final actions on documents in the 2008 cycle
These and other codes and standards revised in the 2008 cycle will be presented for action at the World Safety Conference & Exposition in June. Those who have filed a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM) by the published deadline and have had that motion certified will have a chance to present the motions at the meeting. Documents for which no NITMAMs have been filed will be forwarded directly to the NFPA Standards Council for issuance. The new codes issued in the 2008 cycle will carry a 2009 edition date, though they may be for sale by the end of 2008.
- Flynn, Jennifer, "CO Deaths," NFPA Journal, Vol. 102, No. 1, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, Mass
Alisa Wolf is a frequent contributor to NFPA Journal.