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Ensuring chemical lab fire safety: attending the NFPA 45 technical committee

By Scott Starr, marketing director for Firetrace International

This week I represented Firetrace at the NFPA 45 technical committee conference for the next revision of the ‘Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals’.  This is one of five committees related to either fire suppression systems or applications that we are directly involved in, although we provide input on countless more.

The NFPA codes and standards provide guidance for everything from type and placement of handheld fire extinguishers, to the quantity of and placement of hazardous chemicals in a building.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. If you’ve never read an NFPA code or standard, at first glance they can look like an intimidating combination of a foreign language, a legal document and the ten commandments (lots and lots of “thou shall”).  They’re quite a dry read.

However, it’s important to remember that the sole purpose and intent of each standard or code is truly to ensure safety.

Every three to five years each one goes through a revision to make sure we are continuously demanding the best. Every line is scrutinized by both the technical committee of industry experts, as well as by public comments, in an effort to resolve discrepancies and provide clarification, or to make changes based on better information, dealing with trending incidents or the availability of new technology.

In all there are nearly 300 of these committees. They comprise over 8,800 industry volunteers, who either donate their time independently or are sponsored by their organization to ensure that these standards remain the best, most encompassing set of codes they can be for their subject matter.

So it turned out to be my pleasure to join the NFPA 45 technical committee this week for the first steps of the next revision process. I think we can all be thankful for the great effort that goes into these codes and standards used around the world to ensure our safety.