HCIS licensing requirements webinar is now available for fire protection contractors and consultants working in 12 Saudi Arabian sectors

Earlier this month, the NFPA jointly presented an informational webinar with the Saudi Arabian High Commission for Industrial Security (HCIS) on new license renewal requirements that went into effect last month. The webinar was a great collaboration between NFPA and the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) that provides strategic supervision and is the approval body for 12 industries in Saudi. The one-hour webinar with Q&A covered the new mandate as well as the NFPA training and certification classes that professionals will need to take before they seek license renewals within the petroleum, electricity, petrochemicals, water, industrial services, communications, mining, gas, civil explosives, chemical manufacturing, metal manufacturing, and port sectors. The webinar is a prime example of the government responsibility that is emphasized in the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™. With more than 1500 registered for the live version of the webinar, the Saudi Arabian workforce demonstrated that it is interested in skilling up and investing in safety – two other critical components of the Ecosystem. Whether you attended the webinar on the 8th and want to revisit things, or are just learning about this webinar for the first time, be sure to see what the new Saudi Arabian requirements  and NFPA solutions are all about by accessing the archived webinar now. Looking to establish similar safety benchmarks elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa? Reach out to me so that we can work together to connect the dots on safety, because knowledge is power.  
An electrician with wiring

A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Electrical Equipment Working Space

The National Electrical Code® (NEC)® Section 110.26 requires adequate working space for all electrical equipment. NEC Section 110.26(A) requires a clear space at least 30 inches wide and 36 inches deep if the equipment is likely to be worked on while energized. This space is necessary not only to allow workers room to perform tasks but also room to move if something goes wrong. NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, Section 110.3 requires that all equipment be placed into an electrically safe work condition (ESWC) unless there is proper justification for the equipment to be energized. NEC 110.26(A) still applies even if equipment will be in an ESWC. The initial electrical inspection for a facility is conducted by a legislated authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).  However, as with all NFPA 70E requirements, it is the employer who assigns someone as the AHJ within the facility. That person may also be the AHJ for the NEC requirements when new equipment is installed in that facility. Floor space is at a premium so providing larger working space is a common issue. An inhouse AHJ will try to convince the official AHJ that the equipment will never be worked on while energized. The problem with that argument is that both OSHA and NFPA 70E require equipment that is not in a verified ESWC to be considered energized. As far as the NEC is concerned, energized equipment requires working space no matter which AHJ inspects the installation. The inhouse AHJ will claim that employee training, work procedures, equipment maintenance, and work practices assure that an employee will never work on the equipment energized. The inhouse AHJ may convince themselves that this is justification to use a working space smaller than NEC Section 110.26(A) when they are the sole AHJ. This argument typically fails when it is an official AHJ who must approve the proposed working space. They want to assure worker safety under any situation by providing the required space. Few official AHJs will approve a smaller working space based on conditions that are beyond their jurisdiction. They will not verify worker qualification, determine the effectiveness of the training program, check equipment maintenance records, or review work procedures and practices. Human error is a major contributor to workplace fatalities and injuries. An official AHJ will not want to sign off on an installation that will haunt them when a worker fails to follow the employer’s electrical safety program. It takes experience to protect workers while preserving valuable floor space. Electrical safety is always affected by installation, maintenance, and work practices. There is equipment not likely to be worked on while energized. There are installation methods and techniques that can minimize the amount of working space required. There is equipment that operates below the minimum shock or arc-flash hazard levels. The full working space of NEC 110.26(A) will be necessary without a holistic approach to electrical safety. Make sure your installations provide the clear space necessary to keep a worker safe. NFPA 70E and the NEC are now available in NFPA LiNK™, the association’s information delivery platform with NFPA codes and standards, supplementary content, and visual aids for building, electrical, and life safety professionals and practitioners. Learn more at nfpa.org/LiNK.
Area in the mountains

From Washington, Big Investments in Wildfire Mitigation on the Horizon

Last week, President Biden visited the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho and then continued to California to see first-hand the devastation wrought by the 200,000-acre Caldor fire. Talking to press from a Cal Fire hangar, he touted the concrete actions taken by his Administration to tackle the 2021 wildfire crisis—raising wages for federal firefighters to the federal minimum, securing aircraft to fight fires from the sky, and using the Defense Production Act to clear manufacturing bottlenecks for hoses to fight fires on the ground. With millions of acres burned so far—and beloved landmarks like the General Sherman now in danger—these actions must be taken to protect lives and communities. However, in terms of mitigating the impact of these fires, there’s nothing yet the President can pull from the oven. But things are cooking. On Capitol Hill, Congress is considering two measures that would make substantial investments in wildfire mitigation. Earlier in the summer, the Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill that contains $1.5 billion for hazardous fuel treatments and a new $500 million program to help communities update and implement Community Wildfire Protection Plans. And now, the House is negotiating the budget reconciliation process—the other part of Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. As part of that 10-year, multi-trillion package, the House Committees on Agriculture and Natural Resources have included over $15 billion for hazardous fuel treatments, hundreds of millions to State, Tribal, and local firefighters to help them with equipment and training to tackle wildfires, and billions to help communities create fuel projects, do treatments on private lands, and clear defensible space around structures. These are all investments that will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and blunt their impacts on communities. In July, then U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen, testifying before a Senate Committee, called for a “paradigm shift” in the country’s investment in land management for wildfire mitigation—a doubling to a quadrupling of current forest fuel treatments. After decades of neglect, forests full of burnable material, and now a more arid climate, the billions now under consideration in Congress answer that call. However, if the U.S. is truly going to get ahead of this problem, we need true paradigm shifts in all areas of Outthink Wildfire™, including retrofitting homes in the wildland urban interface (WUI), following the latest codes and best land use practices, and educating residents on steps they need to take to reduce their own risk. Every leader, from the President down to governors, county managers, and mayors, should echo these calls to action. Learn more about the five key tenets of Outthink Wildfire at nfpa.org/wildfirepolicy.    

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!
ESS landscape

RFP now open for FPRF Project: Landscape of ESS Hazards and Mitigation Strategies due October 5

Battery Energy Storage Systems (ESS) are a critical part of today's dramatic push for sustainable and renewable electrical energy. As a result, these systems are proliferating at an exponential pace. While the fire protection and emergency response communities are working with ESS providers and others to ensure acceptable safe installations, there are still gaps in the fundamental understanding of lithium-ion ESS hazards. These voids leave serious safety questions unanswered. It is imperative for the full landscape of battery ESS hazards and mitigation strategies to be thoroughly defined, reviewed, and communicated out to the energy storage and fire safety communities so that they can safely support the use of these units. This comprehensive review aims to support the development of best practices and inform updates to relevant safety standards, such as NFPA 855, Standard for Stationary Energy Storage Systems, FM Global Datasheet DS-5-33, Electrical Energy Storage Systems, and more. Sponsored by the Fire Protection Research Foundation’s Energy Storage Research Consortium, the project aims to establish a robust understanding of li-ion battery-based energy storage system hazards and strategic fire protection and response factors through a thorough literature review, hazard assessment, and gap analysis. The open RFP is available here and on the Research Foundation’s website. Please submit your proposals by 5 p.m. ET on Friday, October 8, 2021.
People walking up and down stairs

Basic of Egress Stair Design

For many of us, walking up and down stairs is a routine part of our day. We may use stairs at work, at entertainment venues, and in our home without thinking twice about how their design and function contribute greatly to life safety in both emergency and non-emergency situations. Recently, I wrote about the details and the importance of handrail design for safe and efficient stair use. Here I will focus on other details of stair design including riser height, tread depth, stair width, stair landings, and construction uniformity that are mandated in order to create a safe path of travel when using the stairs to move throughout the building. These standard stair design details are mandated for egress stairs in the exit access, exits and exit discharge. (Where you have other than standard stairs such as curved stairs, spiral stairs or winders within a means of egress, consult NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, Chapter 7 for further details on their design.) Construction All stairs serving as required means of egress must be of permanent fixed construction (unless they are stairs serving seating that is designed to be repositioned, such as those in theaters, for example, where seating sections are added, removed, or relocated and it is impractical for stairs associated with that seating to be of fixed, permanent construction). In buildings required by NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, to be of Type I or Type II construction, each stair, platform, and landing, not including handrails and existing stairs, are required to be of noncombustible material throughout. Stairs can be of combustible construction if the building is not required by that occupancy to be of Type I or Type II construction. For example, an occupancy might not have any requirements related to minimum building construction type, or the occupancy chapter might permit Type III, Type IV, or Type V construction. If the building is required to be of Type I or Type II construction, the materials used for new stair construction (stairs, platforms, and landings) must be noncombustible. Dimensional Criteria and Uniformity Providing adequate width is one of the most important features of egress stair design as the width ensures that the stairs can accommodate enough people safely and efficiently during an evacuation.  Providing appropriate stair riser height and tread depth ensures that stairs are safe, usable, and presents tripping and discomfort when traveling up or down the stairs.  The minimum required width as well as other dimensional criteria for both new and existing stairs is summarized in the tables below (reference: Chapter 7 of NFPA 101).  It should be noted that in some cases, the egress capacity will require a stair to have a greater width than the minimum specified here. The minimum width of new stairs is 36 in. (915 mm) where the total occupant load of all stories served by the stair is fewer than 50. Where new stairs serve a total cumulative occupant load (assigned to that stair) of 50 or more people but less than 2000 people the minimum width is 44 in. (1120 mm) and where the total cumulative occupant load assigned to the stair is greater than or equal to 2000 people the minimum width is 56 in. (1420 mm).  Riser height is measured as the vertical distance between tread nosings. Tread depth is measured horizontally, between the vertical planes of the leading projection of adjacent treads and at a right angle to the tread’s leading edge. Measuring both riser height and tread depth needs to represent the actual space available to those using the stairs. It cannot include any part of the tread that is not available for someone to place their foot.  Installing floor coverings to existing stairs might also reduce the available space for use on the stairs. Irregularities in stair geometry, either from one step to the next or over an entire run of stairs, can cause accidents, tripping and falling when using the stairs. When many people are using the stair at once, just one accident can cause delays and disruptions in movement and use of the stairs, and increase the overall time of evacuation. There should be no design irregularities. Very small variations due to construction are permitted between adjacent treads and risers and the overall different over the entire flight of stairs. The variation between the sizes of the largest and smallest riser or between the largest and smallest tread depths shall not exceed 3∕ 8 in. (9.5 mm) in any flight. Stair Landings As a general rule, stairs must have landings at door openings because it is unsafe to move through a door opening and immediately begin vertical travel on a stair. In existing buildings, a door assembly at the top of a stair is permitted to open directly to the stair, without first providing a level landing, provided that the door leaf does not swing over the stair (rather, it swings away from the stair) and the door opening serves an area with an occupant load of fewer than 50 people. Stairs and intermediate landings must continue with no decrease in width along the direction of egress travel. A reduction in width of a stair landing could reduce the overall capacity of the stair.  In new buildings, every landing will have a dimension, measured in the direction of travel, that is not less than the width of the stair. Landings are not required to exceed 48 in. (1220 mm) in the direction of travel, provided that the stair has a straight run. Intermediate stair landings serve as effective breaks in runs of stairs, which allow persons who slip or trip to halt their fall.     Stair Tread and Stair Landing Surfaces Surface Stair treads and landings must be solid, without perforations, except for noncombustible grated stair treads and landings as otherwise provided in the following occupancies: assembly, detention and correctional, industrial and storage. Solid treads and solid landing floors provide a visual barrier that shields the user’s view of the vertical drop beneath the stair. People with a fear of high places are more comfortable using these stairs. Grated and expanded metal treads and landings could catch the heel of a shoe and present a tripping hazard. Noncombustible, grated stair treads are permitted in areas not accessed by the general public, such as catwalks and gridirons in theaters, resident housing areas in prisons, factories and other industrial occupancies, and storage occupancies. Projections Stair treads and landings must also be free of projections or lips that could trip stair users. The tripping hazard occurs especially when someone is traveling down the stairs, where the tread walking surface has projections. The installation of a surface-mounted stair nosing or a strip of material onto an existing stair tread might produce a projection that creates a tripping hazard. Tread nosings that project over adjacent treads can also be a tripping hazard. (Additional considerations for minimizing tripping hazards for accessibility is also addressed in ICC A117.1, Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities.) Traction Stair treads and landings within the same stairway must have consistent surface traction. This means that slip resistance is reasonably uniform and sufficient to minimize risk of slipping across the treads. Consistency is important because misleading a person’s expectation of the surface they will be walking on is a major factor in missteps and falls involving slipping. Materials used for floors that are acceptable as slip resistant generally provide adequate slip resistance where used for stair treads. If stair treads are wet, there is also increased danger of slipping, just as there is an increased danger of slipping on wet floors of similar materials. The many details of stair design may seem minute and unimportant in the overall picture of fire and life safety, but stairs can be dangerous and an impediment to egress if not designed correctly.  Tripping, falling, and a lack of confidence by those using egress stairs can interrupt efficient egress travel and building evacuation.  Paying careful attention to stair design will greatly contribute to occupant safety during both day to day and emergency conditions
Rethinking electrical safety  - a man in front of a city skyline

Rethinking Electrical Safety Because Lives Depend On It

Electrical safety is without question a critical component to a successful electrical installation. Yet many seem to have differing viewpoints on what is safe and what risks should be taken. At the root of every electrical safety incident is a person who made a choice, based on the information they had available. Sometimes proper training is not provided and at other times, proper training may have been provided, but chosen not to be utilized by the individual. Either scenario can end in a fatal result, or a non-fatal physical or mental injury that continues to impact the victim for years to come.  Even when the incident proves to be non-fatal, long-term sequalae, or lingering effects, from a previous electrical injury have been known to produce neurologic, psychological, and physical symptoms. With so much at stake, it is crucial that electrical safety training continue to be reevaluated by all involved to determine where we can improve. Having proper knowledge of how to perform electrical tasks safely is a solid foundation. NFPA 70E® Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® should be the cornerstone that electrical safety training is built upon, as it provides guidelines and procedures for working safely around electricity. Something to consider, is how the training of processes and procedures take place. Looking at the apprenticeship model in my home state, there is a minimum of 576 hours of classroom-based related technical instruction (RTI) required. Of the 576 required hours of RTI, 450 hours are mandated to have so many hours trained on specific components. The safety component requirement is 10 hours of the 450. There is also no mandate that those 10 hours be electrical safety training such as NFPA 70E, as it could revolve around first aid, CPR, AED, OSHA training, etc. and still meet the requirement specifications. All things considered, an apprentice could go through an entire 576-hour program and receive only 10 hours - equating to 1.74 percent of the full program hours - of safety training that may or may not be electrical safety based. Sure, there are 126 hours additional flexible RTI hours of training available to train on electrical safety, after the 450 required hours, but there is no mandate that electrical safety is part of those additional hours. And my state is likely not unique to this arrangement of electrical apprenticeship hours, as many states utilize similar templates provided by governmental organizations, such as the United States Department of Labor, as a baseline to create their individual state Standards of Apprenticeship.   Analyzing the previous examples and thinking about where electrical safety can be improved upon, two things come to mind: First, there has to be more emphasis placed on the need for safety training that is specific to working around electricity within apprenticeship programs. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard 1910 has specific rules to help keep individuals safe when working around electricity, like Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Subpart I, that are often met by using procedures within NFPA 70E. But training on these rules are not always built into apprenticeship programs themselves. Where required, employers often look to outside resources to train on NFPA 70E procedures that will help meet OSHA requirements. Apprenticeship programs need to be designed so the applicable electrical safety training is built into their programs and employers can train additionally, as needed, for job-specific or industry-based tasks. The second item digs a little deeper and relates to how electrical safety training is actually delivered. In the previous example, safety training is one of many components within the program. But electrical safety is a critical part of many of the processes and tasks that are learned in other areas of an apprenticeship. How can a defective circuit breaker be changed out safely if electrical safety procedures aren’t followed as part of the process? Teaching electrical safety as part of the specific task process, instead of as a stand-alone component, would allow apprentices to learn safety as a step that is already built into the task. Just as it is learned that you turn a screwdriver to the left to loosen a screw that holds a circuit breaker in place, it could also be learned that establishing an electrically safe work condition (ESWC) is an integral step in safely changing out a defective circuit breaker. Understanding electrical safety is part of the process but knowing how and when to apply it as part of routine installation procedures will help individuals to return home safely each night. Electrical safety is ever evolving and no one person holds all the answers. It becomes necessary to look at and evaluate what becomes the norm, eliminate any complacency, and be open to rethinking how we train electrical safety. College football coach Bo Schembechler was known for saying, “Every day you either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same.” When it comes to electrical safety, I believe that also holds true. We must continue to use every new day as an opportunity to get better on how we train electrical safety. Lives depend on it.   Learn more about NFPA 70E training that is available to help with your electrical safety training needs. 
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