AUTHOR: Cathy Longley

Hot work incidents and statistics remind us of the importance of pre-incident planning and a dedicated fire watch in chemical, industrial, and manufacturing settings

Nearly 14 months after the explosion in the Port of Beirut, many questions remain about the catastrophic disaster but one thing we know is that hot work acted as the ignition source for the epic chain of events. And, in its wake, 218 were killed, more than 7,000 were injured, over 70,000 apartments were impacted, and at least 300,000 residents were forced to look for housing. One little spark created devastation to the tune of 3.8-4.6 billion, per the World Bank. On August 8, welding contractors went to hangar 12 in the Beirut port to repair a broken door and a hole in an exterior wall where Lebanese officials had stored 2,750 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate and a large supply of fireworks. Sparks from their hot work set the nearby firework supply on fire and prompted the ammonium nitrate to explode in a manner that shocked the world. An event of that magnitude is rare and stands as a fascinating case study for the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, but the incident and its aftermath prove that hot work can result in some very real, costly, and heartbreaking outcomes. Hot work includes cutting, welding, brazing, soldering, grinding, drilling, chipping, blasting, heat-treating, thawing pipes, roof application, or making repairs with tar pots and kettles. NFPA research estimates that, in the United States alone, fire departments respond to an average of 4,580 structure fires involving hot work each year with 57% of incidents occurring in non-residential settings. Beyond the associated costs related to property loss, business continuity, and displaced occupants – there is also the human toll. In the U.S., an average of 22 civilian deaths, 171 civilian injuries, and $484 million in property damage is incurred per year from hot work. Nearly 60 years ago, NFPA released its hot work standard - NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work and OSHA valued the benchmarks within the standard so much that they incorporated it into general industry regulations for welding, cutting, and brazing (29 CFR 1910.252). Hazard recognition is the first hot work safety implementation step regardless of the environment. The process of identifying hazards begins with an understanding of the work being done and a commitment to avoid hot work-caused fire. Managing the job site during hot work is the responsibility of the fire watch, who is charged with monitoring conditions; noting any deviations from those initially permitted; and stopping work. The fire watch is responsible for completing incident reports too. With the adoption of the 2019 edition of NFPA 51B, the fire watch must also remain for at least 60 minutes following the completion of hot work to ensure optimal safety. For hot work activities when construction/alteration/demolition operations are present, the fire watch should also be interacting with the Fire Prevention Program Manager, or FPPM. The FPPM has multiple responsibilities, including the supervision of permits for hot work operations (see NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration and Demolition Operations). On October 5, two of NFPA’s resident experts on hot work and facility safety will present a session entitled Hot Work in Industrial Facilities as part of the Keeping Hazardous Environments Safe program, an all-day education conference for those interested in chemical, industrial, and occupational safety, as well as emerging tech issues. Given that hot work is a common occurrence in manufacturing and other facilities charged with food processing, pulp and paper manufacturing, oil production, fuel storage, and waste treatment – it should be a perennial top-of-mind topic. Are you up to speed? The conference series can be attended virtually on the scheduled date or registrants can choose to watch the 11 sessions via on-demand anytime in the next year. Presenters Laura Moreno and Kevin Carr will cover hot work definitions, case studies, best practices, and potential risks, and emphasize the important roles that the fire watch and pre-incident planning play in reducing risk especially during construction, alteration, or demolition projects. If you work in an industrial, chemical, or manufacturing setting – register for the Keeping Hazardous Environments Safe conference – or share this blog with those you know who do. Find out more about 11 NFPA topically driven virtual conference events that began in May and will run through March 2022.

Impressive lineup on tap for October 5 NFPA conference centered around industrial, chemical, and emerging tech issues

Well-known industry experts and NFPA technical staff are set to discuss energy storage systems (ESS), natural gases, flammable liquids, fuel gases, petroleum, combustible dust, hot work, and other topics during a one-day virtual NFPA conference on Tuesday, October 5.   The forward-thinking Keeping Hazardous Environments Safe program is designed for those that work in industrial settings, the chemical and petrochemical sectors, emergency management, plant operations, occupational health and safety, code enforcement, the fire service, and the energy field. Lessons learned, prescriptive approaches, and workplace challenges will be shared during educational sessions, industry roundtable discussions, networking opportunities, live chat exchanges, and sponsor demonstrations.   The Keeping Hazardous Environments Safe conference boasts an impressive lineup of NFPA staff, guest speakers, and industry panelists. It is the 5th program in the virtual 125th Anniversary Conference Series which replaced the traditional in-person 2021 NFPA Conference & Expo. Here is a snapshot of the day’s agenda (more detailed session information can be found on the conference registration site):   Hot Work in Industrial Facilities - Laura Moreno, NFPA Standards Lead, Industrial and Chemical Safety and Kevin Carr, NFPA Specialist NFPA 30: The Risk Management Paradigm of Ignitible (Flammable and Combustible) Liquids and Your Facility - Mike Marando, NFPA Senior Engineer, NFPA 30 Staff Liaison and Alwin Kelly, Senior Engineer, Jensen Hughes, NFPA 30 Technical Committee Member NFPA 30: Revisiting Fire Risks of Composite IBCs; A Global View - Mike Snyder, DEKRA Process Safety and Nicolas Lochet, Allianz Global Risk Consulting NFPA 54, Working Safely with Fuel Gas - Guy Colonna, Principal Engineer, FSL Consulting LLC NFPA 58: An Ongoing History of Taming the Flame - Bruce Sweicicki, P.E., Senior Technical Advisor, NPGA Emergency Preparedness for Industrial Facilities Near Communities - Bernard W. Leong, PE, Chief Fire Protection Engineer, Chevron and Eric LaVergne, Williams Fire & Hazard Control/JCI Panel Discussion Part 1: Energy Storage Systems and Surprise, AZ - Bob Sullivan, NFPA Regional Director Southwest (Moderator), Brian O'Connor, P.E., Engineer, and other industry experts NFPA 652: Dust Hazard Analysis 101 - Chris Cloney, PhD, Managing Director and Lead Researcher, DustEx Research Panel Discussion Part 2: Energy Storage Systems, Preventing Disaster – Bob Sullivan, NFPA Regional Director Southwest (Moderator), Brian O'Connor, P.E., Engineer, and other industry experts NFPA 715: Combustible Gas Dispersion Detector Location Analysis - Noah L. Ryder, PhD, PE, MBA, Managing Partner, Fire & Risk Alliance, LLC, and Scott Davis, President and Principal Engineer, Gexcon Live! Industry Round Table: Putting it All On the Table - Jon Hart, NFPA Technical Lead, Principal Fire Protection Engineer (Moderator), Kirk M. Sander, Chief of Staff and Vice President, Safety and Standards, National Waste & Recycling Association, Bernard W. Leong, PE, Chief Fire Protection Engineer, Chevron, and Alwin Kelly, Senior Engineer, Jensen Hughes Dial in on October 5 to earn up to five credit hours (0.5 CEU), then earn an additional five credit hours later – for a total of 10 credit hours (1.0 CEU). Or access all content via on-demand at your leisure for up to a year beginning on October 5. Either way – register today in the interest of safety!
NFPA's Andrew Klock on Fox

Electric Vehicles in the (Fox News) Spotlight

A Fox News Spotlight on America investigative piece recently zeroed in on the challenges that firefighters face when responding to incidents involving electric vehicles (EVs). The months long Fox News investigation looked at related challenges and featured, in part, footage from a Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute training session, references to a recent National Transportation Safety Bureau NTSB) report on EV safety, and NFPA perspective and resources. The coverage comes at a time when we are seeing an uptick in EV offerings, communities offering sustainable solutions incentives, and the current administration embracing green technologies. But although we know that EVs and other innovations are great for the environment, we can’t lose sight of the fact that new technologies often present a learning curve for first responders. Hence, the reason for the Fox story which included outreach to more than 30 fire departments in the US to see if first responders were trained on potential hazards and response tactics. Only one-third of the departments contacted responded to confirm that they, in fact, have conducted EV response training. “Unlike gasoline, which can be drained from a vehicle’s tank, there are no surefire methods of removing energy from a car’s lithium-ion battery when the battery has been damaged in a crash. Because of this, energy remains trapped inside the battery and a process known as thermal runaway can occur, in which the battery essentially continuously overheats and over-pressurizes and is prone to fires, arc-flashing, off-gassing, and sometimes explosions,” NFPA Journal’s Angelo Verzoni wrote in a recent EV story. NFPA has been developing and promoting EV tools for the fire service and others for more than a decade and as such was an obvious interview choice for the Spotlight story. Andrew Klock, emerging issues lead manager at NFPA, pointed out to the investigative team that firefighters have been responding to automobile fires for more than 100 years and that EV response requires a paradigm shift for first responders. Stressing that EVs are not more dangerous than gas-fueled cars but present unique considerations, Klock said that the ultimate responsibility to skill up on new technologies and risks falls on local fire departments. Klock explained that departments are already pressed for time when it comes to emerging issues and new technologies. "When they train, they're not putting out fires, they're not on the trucks. So, it's a real challenge to backfill when you're doing in-person training, which is why we feel like online training is a much better way to go," Klock commented. “But it’s really up to the individual fire departments to say this is something that's coming. This is an emerging technology that we need to get a handle on." Leading fire authorities and federal agencies agree that responders need to be trained on EV safety and have been working to raise awareness and to drive change. Last week, the Congressional Fire Service Institute (CFSI) passed a resolution that supports federal legislation, as well as funding and policies that educate responders and promote the use and enforcement of the most current consensus-based codes and standards that address new technologies such as EVs. The NTSB has also been promoting a report entitled, “Safety Risks to Emergency Responders from Lithium-Ion Battery Fires in Electric Vehicles” based on their findings from crash investigations. The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have recognized the critical need for keeping pace with progress, too, and have awarded NFPA funds to develop responder training, research, and resources so that communities have convenient access to training and tools. Fire departments can take advantage of all these resources in the interest of responder safety and the well-being of citizens. Learn more about NFPA EV resources at  www.nfpa.org/ev.

Congressional Fire Service approves resolution calling for electric vehicle, energy storage system, and flammable refrigerants training and resources

A resolution proposed by NFPA and others regarding emerging technologies, such as electrical vehicles (EVs), received unanimous approval during a Congressional Fire Services Institute Board (CFSI) National Advisory Committee. The CFSI resolution supports federal legislation, as well as funding and policies that educate responders and promote the use and enforcement of the most current consensus-based codes and standards that address new technologies. Put forth by NFPA, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and the International Code Council (ICC), the resolution explains that, by every measure, technology is changing and improving at the fastest rate in history. It stresses the importance of educating and equipping first responders so that they can safely and successfully deal with potential challenges, and references support and strategies from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The resolution zeroes in on: EVs, hybrid, propane, hydrogen fuel cell, and natural gas vehicles Distributed energy systems including microgrids, solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, and energy storage systems (ESS) Environmentally friendly refrigerants that have a lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) but can pose flammability and toxicity risks when involved in fire events The Biden Administration has a progressive sustainability agenda and tragic incidents involving EVs and ESS have caught the attention of the press, public, and policy makers recently. NFPA has been developing emerging technologies training, resources, and research for the nation’s 1.1 million career and volunteer firefighters for more than a decade, in the interest of safety. But, as the resolution points out, only 20 percent of the firefighters in the US have participated in available EV and ESS training to date (let alone newer training related to lesser-known flammable refrigerant hazards). Fire departments train on a frequent basis, usually in-house, and will find helpful online training solutions, research, codes, and standards, and more on the following microsites: www.nfpa.org/ev www.nfpa.org/ess www.nfpa.org/refrigerants We can’t let innovation outpace safety. That is why NFPA is continuously looking at what’s next. Last fall, the Association received a DOE award entitled, “NFPA Spurs the Safe Adoption of Electric Vehicles through Education and Outreach” and is currently working on a three-year effort with the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicle Technologies Office’s Clean Cities Coalitions (CCC) network. The project goes beyond first responders and will help communities evaluate their EV infrastructure, training programs, incentives, and code compliance readiness, and will provide guidance for formulating plans that will raise awareness and speed the safe adoption of EVs across the country.  A second DOE award will result in an NFPA Distributed Energy Resources Safety Training program and allow NFPA to update its current EV Safety classroom training for the fire service and develop an online immersive simulation for distributed energy resources including EVs, charging stations, ESS, and solar systems.
Hatem Kheir, NFPA Board of Directors, Jim Pauley, NFPA President

Remembering NFPA Board member Hatem Kheir of Egypt and his contributions to life safety

“NFPA, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the world have lost an incredible safety ambassador with the passing of NFPA Board member Hatem Kheir this week,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said. “Hatem was the consummate safety professional. His mechanical engineering background, passion for reducing risk, professional collaborations, commitment to educating the young and at risk, and his quest to offer in-language solutions to stakeholders were unmatched. We are eternally grateful for his contributions over the years.” Hatem passed away this week, at the age of 62, after a brief illness. Hatem joined the NFPA Board of Directors in 2016 and was serving his second term at the time of his death. During his tenure, he was a member of the Governance & Nominating Committee and the newly formed Corporate Development Committee.   NFPA Board Chair Amy Acton said, “Hatem was interested in being an NFPA Board member because he felt it would help him serve Egypt and other developing countries to better understand the importance of fire protection. He embraced the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™ and the opportunity to discuss safety with a long list of connections in the international marketplace.” Hatem was the owner and general manager of the Kheir Group based in Cairo, Egypt, a firm that specializes in supplying pumps, pumping services, and maintenance. He devoted 22 years to the standards development process, serving as a principal member on the Fire Pumps (FIM-AAA) technical committee that is responsible for the development of NFPA 20, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection.  Hatem was passionate about the proper use and application of NFPA codes and standards. With that in mind, he pioneered the first translation of NFPA documents into Arabic and worked to ensure that language was not a barrier to understanding and applying codes and standards. He believed wholeheartedly that we all play a role in safety and traveled all over the Middle East educating fire protection system users, firefighters, consultants, and engineers on how to select, install, test, and service fire pumps. He also devoted time to training and informing young engineers on the role that codes play in society and developed a study and education program for school-age children to help raise awareness of fire prevention and protection strategies.   Hatem helped launch the Egyptian Fire Protection Association so that government officials, companies, and workers were working holistically in the interest of safety; and until his death, served as Chairman of the Confederation of Fire Protection Association – International.  He worked with chamber of commerce leaders (American, British, Egyptian, and German), economic minds, fire protection industry groups, industrial engineering professionals, and those interested in culture development efforts throughout his career and was a founding member of the NFPA MENA Advisory Council.  Heartfelt condolences go out to Hatem’s wife Iman, his children, in-laws, grandchildren, and all who loved and admired him. His legacy will live on in the work that we do each day to reduce risk. 
Chevy Bolt

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues safety warning about Chevy Bolt

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a warning to owners of 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolts, urging them not to park in garages or near structures and to refrain from overnight charging. In November, General Motors recalled more than 50,000 Chevy Bolts due to potential fire risks posed by high-voltage batteries underneath the back seat. Battery packs can smoke and ignite – regardless of whether the vehicle has gone through the recall repair process or not. In the most recent alert, NHTSA reported that two Chevy Bolt fires occurred in vehicles that had gone through the recall remedy. NFPA and organizations like the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have been working to educate audiences about electric vehicles (EV), particularly first responders.  Over the last twelve years, NFPA has worked with every auto/truck/bus manufacturer who sells EVs and hybrids in this country and has received pre-market safety information so that responders have the most up-to-date training, tools, and resources. The NFPA EV Safety Training website is the most accessed repository in the U.S. for EV responder safety information. NTSB also investigated four unrelated EV incidents and released a thorough report in November on hazards and gaps. Earlier this year, NFPA covered this topic when two occupants of a Tesla were killed in a fiery crash in Texas. Then right before the high-travel Memorial Day holiday weekend, NFPA collaborated with major fire organizations to get the word out about the unique challenges associated with EVs. To keep pace with an influx of energy-efficient cars on the roadways, NFPA applied for and secured two new Department of Energy (DOE) grants. The first, entitled NFPA Spurs the Safe Adoption of EVs through Education and Outreach, will allow NFPA to develop free EV awareness training for utilities, code officials, charging station installers, EV fleet owners, tow and salvage responders, crash reconstruction teams, manufacturers, dealerships, garage maintenance workers, insurance companies, and EV owners. A second effort calls for enhancing and promoting an NFPA Distributed Energy Resources Safety Training program. NFPA will update its current EV Safety classroom training for the fire service and develop an online gamification version of the distributed energy resource including how to respond to electric vehicle fires. To learn more about EV safety, visit www.nfpa.org/EV
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