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4 Posts authored by: gcolonna Employee
According to NFPA statistics from NFIRS, the five year average (2010 - 2014) for hot work caused fires is 4,440...that's more than 10 per day throughout the US. These fires are preventable as long as there is an awareness of the basic principles and safeguards that should be followed any time a hot work activity is planned and conducted. That's the approach Boston Fire Department took over 2 years ago in the aftermath of a tragic fire in the city that took the lives of two firefighters.
During my recent NFPA Live presentation along with Laura Moreno, Engineer and Staff Liaison for NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work we described the fundamental safe practices found in the standard and shared how the program initiated from this tragedy has now trained nearly 25,000. 
We received this follow-up question from a member. I'm now sharing it with you. I hope you find some value in it.
NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!

During the recent National Safety Council (NSC) Congress & Expo, the world’s largest forum for health and safety technology, products, education, and networking, OSHA’s preliminary Top 10 list of violations for 2017 was revealed. NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman explained, “The OSHA Top 10 is more than just a list, it is a blueprint for keeping workers safe. When we all work together to address hazards, we can do the best job possible to ensure employees go home safely each day.”


Each year, the rankings change very little. In 2017, however, with more than 6,000 reported violations, the need for fall protection general requirements was identified as the top priority. Below is the full list of hazards, and some of the NFPA codes and standards that currently exist so that organizations and workers can optimize safety and minimize workplace hazards.

  1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501): 6,072 violations
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200): 4,176 violations - NFPA 704, the Standard System for the Identification of the Hazards of Materials for Emergency Response presents a simple, easily understood system of markings (referred to as the "NFPA hazard diamond") that provides a general sense of hazardous materials, and notes the severity as they relate to emergency response. This standard and the chemical data base that NFPA publishes in the Fire Protection Guide to HazMat can help workers minimize occupational risk.
  3. Scaffolding (1926.451): 3,288 violations – There are some stability considerations addressed in Chapter 8 of NFPA 241, the Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations. The document provides measures for preventing or minimizing fire damage to structures, including those in underground locations, during construction, alteration, or demolition.
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134): 3,097 violations - NFPA 1852 The Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) establishes requirements for the SCBA used by the fire service. SCBA is required by the respiratory protection guidelines set forth in NFPA 1500, the Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program. These standards minimize the risk that firefighters can face due to improper maintenance of equipment, contamination, or damage.
  5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147): 2,877 violations
  6. Ladders (1926.1053): 2,241 violations
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178): 2,162 violations - NFPA 505 Fire Safety Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks Including Type Designations, Areas of Use, Conversions, Maintenance, and Operations mitigates potential fire and explosion hazards involving powered industrial trucks, including fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines.
  8. Machine Guarding (1910.212): 1,933 violations
  9. Fall Protection – Training Requirements: 1,523 violations
  10. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305): 1,405 violations - NFPA is perhaps best known for producing NFPA 70, the National Electrical Code® (NEC) and NFPA 70E, the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® which identifies safe work practices and protects personnel from major electrical hazards. NFPA 70E was originally developed at OSHA's request to help companies and employees avoid workplace injuries and fatalities due to shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast.


Occupational health and safety is a core consideration at NFPA. The Association’s codes and standards, training and resources inform the electrical, chemical, and construction industries, as well as the fire service by providing benchmarks and best practices. An educated workforce and a strong enforcement community responsible for holding others accountable are essential to ensuring the health and safety of workers.

industrial hazards, chemical plant fire, texas, hurricane harvey

Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the coast of Texas on August 25, its devastating impact has been felt across dozens of towns, cities and nearby states in a number of ways, many of which have played out for the past several days on whatever device you use to obtain your news. The latest challenge being several fires that occurred at the Arkema chemical plant in the town of Crosby about 30 miles away from Houston.


Houston and the surrounding area is home to a vast array of chemical and petroleum plants and associated pipelines like Arkema, which means an impact of a different and challenging nature when the integrity of such facilities is compromised. As a result of the loss of power throughout the area, Arkema experienced fires involving stored chemicals used in their chemical process. These fires and related hazards (such as exposure to combustion byproducts released to the area) while serious, posed far less consequence overall because of the planning and preparedness steps that were in place well before such an emergency as the hurricane and attendant flooding and loss of power.


NFPA codes and standards contribute to that preparedness and planning and protect emergency responders during such challenges. For example, NFPA 400: Hazardous Materials Code provides safeguards to be followed when storing, handling and using hazardous chemicals including the organic peroxides at the Houston plant. Hazardous chemicals are often evaluated based on one of three hazardous conditions or characteristics – flammability, instability and health. These particular organic peroxides become unstable when their temperature is not managed through refrigerated storage. Because this facility conducted hazard assessments and implemented various safeguards called for by the codes, they have been better able to cope with this unique condition caused when they could no longer maintain the required refrigeration for the chemicals and fires that started due to the self-heating reaction. The emergency response system and the community effectively responded to the incident because of that prior planning and the information that was shared by the facility with the emergency responders and the community preparedness network. NFPA 400 calls for this type of planning and fire risk control.


Emergency response personnel are also prepared for active response to hazardous materials incidents through training and competency specifications contained in NFPA 472: Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents. With unstable materials the training and competencies ensure that there is a clear understanding of the hazards, which leads to proper decision making when a response is considered. In this case, through the information shared by the facility and the understanding that came with the specialized training of the emergency responders, coupled with the flooding that restricted fire department access, the decision was to order an evacuation of residents in advance of the fires and not attempt to fight these fires once they ignited.


In the aftermath of this horrible natural disaster, those involved with emergency planning and preparedness will be able to use this incident as a case study for many things going right in the face of challenging conditions. It should highlight the importance of these steps for the emergency response network – the responders, the facility owner/operators, and the public.


An event like the chemical plant fire in Crosby can raise questions for residents living near similar chemical or industrial plants in areas across the country. If you are or someone you know is looking for information, the local Emergency Planning Committee can provide information about the hazardous materials that may be stored at that location. During emergency events like Harvey, it’s important that residents monitor local media for updates, listen for evacuation orders and comply with them as quickly as possible.


For more information to help prepare you and your family for an emergency involving hazardous materials, visit NFPA’s “Get Ready! Preparing Your Community for a Disaster” webpage, which provides an informative Hazardous Materials Fact Sheet available in English and in Spanish. It’s free and easy to download and a great resource to share with friends, neighbors and family, and members of your community. The Get Ready! Toolkit also includes tools, tips and resources for first responders to help their communities prepare for other possible future disaster events.


NOTE: Ken Willette, NFPA’s segment director for first responders, contributed to this piece.


Photo: Reuters

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued a status-update on a February explosion at the Packaging Corporation of America (P.C.A.) plant in DeRidder, Louisiana that killed three and injured seven more. According to CSB, the 30-foot-tall tank had about 10-feet of water and flammable materials in it at the time, resulting in 20-feet of vapor space. A spark from nearby hot work got into the tank, causing combustion, and triggering the explosion.

The Leesville Daily Leader quoted CSB Chairperson Vanessa Sutherland as saying, "The CSB has investigated many hot work accidents across the country, including a 2008 explosion that killed three workers at a different P.C.A. plant in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Hot work incidents are one of the most common causes of worker deaths we see at the CSB, but also one of the most readily preventable.” The explosion at the P.C.A. plant was initially thought to be connected to tank pressurization; the final report will be available for public viewing on the CSB website when it is complete.


Hot work is any process involving flame, spark or heat production including cutting, burning, welding, soldering, heat treating, grinding, chipping, drilling, brazing or tapping. NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work outlines the steps for a hot work safety program. Each hot work job requires an assessment to determine the best measures needed to safeguard workers, structures, and surrounding areas, including:

  • seeking a hot work alternative;
  • moving hot work to an area free from all combustible materials;
  • separating hot work from combustible materials to a distance of at least 35 feet; and
  • protecting materials with an approved fire resistant welding blanket, pad or curtain.


Hot work is a common practice within industrial facilities, and far too often we are seeing incidents that are easily preventable. Last August, a CSB team was dispatched to a marine terminal facility in Nederland, Texas when a hot work incident at a crude oil pipeline produced a flash fire injuring seven workers. Hot work problems also occur on construction and renovation jobsites like Trinity Street Bridge. The major artery in Pittsburgh was closed for nearly a month last fall when welding ignited a plastic pipe and construction tarp causing a fire that structurally damaged a 30-foot steel support beam.

NFPA has been working with the Boston Fire Department (BFD) and Boston Metropolitan Trades Council since last fall to deliver hot work safety awareness training for the trades. A devastating hot work fire took the lives of two Boston firefighters in 2014; and BFD asked NFPA to develop a safety awareness training program for all construction workers involved in hot work projects. To date, over 15,000 workers have been trained on hot work basics so that appropriate safeguards are established and followed at every job site in the City of Boston.


The upcoming May/June issue of NFPA Journal® will include a hot work feature and the topic will be addressed in educational sessions at Conference & Expo (C&E) in June.

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