What do you think of when you hear the phrase protective equipment? Many of you likely went right to clothing but protective equipment is anything used to protect the employee from injury. Clothing, hard hats, multi-meters, hand tools and insulating blankets are all equipment that provide protection for the employee. For each of these to achieve that goal they must be properly maintained. An employer is responsible for assuring that appropriate protective equipment is provided to the employee. It is relatively easy for the employer to purchase and verify that equipment is compliant and suitably rated. What happens after the equipment is issued for use is more difficult to track. However, all that equipment must be verified to provide the necessary protection whether the equipment was purchased yesterday or ten years ago.
An employer must have a well-documented policy for the handling of each piece of protective equipment. It is equally important to provide proper inspection training for employees using the equipment. How to inspect an arc-rated suit is entirely different from inspecting voltage rated gloves. Transportation, on-site conditions, and rugged use necessitate an inspection immediately prior to use. A general rule is that protective equipment be inspected before each use. Visual inspection often provides the first sign that protective equipment may not perform as necessary. If the equipment is defective or suspect in any way it must be brought back into compliance before use.
Equipment that is used infrequently must be maintained just as equipment that is used daily. Insulation properties can be effected by time, storage method or atmospheric conditions. Annual calibration of a multi-meter typically does not verify proper insulation. Some equipment may be kept in a common area for use by several employees, some may be issued to individual employees, some may be purchased by the employee, and some may be leased. All this equipment requires appropriate scheduling to be properly maintained in order to protect the employee. For the most part, proper maintenance is directed by the equipment manufacturer. Who performs the maintenance is often the choice of the purchaser. The selection is critical since an employee will be at risk of injury if the equipment is not properly maintained.
What about the protective clothing? More expensive gear like an arc-rated suit may be purchased and maintained by the employer. But every day arc-rated shirts and pants may be the employee’s responsibility to purchase as well as maintain. Rips and tears must be properly repaired. Contaminated gear may be prone to catastrophic failure. Laundering must be done in the correct cycle and temperature as well as with appropriate detergent. If anything is done incorrectly, the protection may not be there when needed. An employer is responsible for protecting an employee. This is true regardless of who is maintaining the protective gear. What is your company’s policy and procedure for the maintaining equipment used to protect you?
For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange.
Next time: NFPA 70E Second Draft.
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Today’s post is from NFPA staff, Jennifer Sisco. Jen is a Fire Protection Engineer in the Building and Life Safety Department where she serves as Staff Liaison to multiple NFPA Technical Committees. Special thanks to Jen for her contribution!
For those of us who live in locations where the winter season means snow, ice, and cold; it can also mean seasonal fire and life safety hazards that can impact the responsibilities of building owners, facility managers, and fire inspectors.
NFPA 1 requires that the means of egress be maintained free of obstruction or impediments to ensure full instant use; and states that site administrators and staff are responsible for inspecting all egress areas to stairways, doors, and other exits to ensure that they are in proper condition. The annex further clarifies that this includes keeping the means of egress and all components clear of snow and ice. Drifting, plowed, or falling snow can make exterior doors difficult to open or make an exit impassible. Likewise, ice on exterior stairways and walkways can pose a significant life safety hazard.
In addition to blocking means of egress, snow can also impact fire department road access - reducing widths, blocking gates, or rendering roadways impenetrable. Fire department access roads, including gateways, need to remain unobstructed. NFPA 1 recognizes that this may be difficult in some areas with extreme snowfalls and that temporary alternative arrangements may need to be made, including temporary roadways as a result of snow accumulation. If it is anticipated that temporary alternate measures may be required, they should be coordinated in advance of snow events, whenever possible.
Winter conditions can prompt power outages which also correlate to increased carbon monoxide-related injuries and deaths. Carbon monoxide is responsible for tens of thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths annually in the United States, alone. Portable generators are a major contributor to carbon monoxide injuries and deaths, typically due to generators being operated in a garage, basement, or other indoor space. NFPA 1 states that generators never be operated inside a building, unless they are in a specifically designed generator room; and that they should be located at least 5 feet away from all building openings and air intakes with the exhaust directed away from the building.
Even in areas not prone to snow, cold temperatures have the ability to freeze piping for sprinkler systems or other water-based suppression systems. Frozen pipes are not only a concern for exterior piping, as piping within buildings in unconditioned spaces, near building openings, or in buildings with heating system impairments can also be subject to freezing. In accordance with NFPA 1, property owners are responsible for ensuring that all water-filled piping is maintained above 40˚F or provided with some other form of freeze protection. In areas that have the potential for freezing temperatures below the level that can be adequately protected by an allowable antifreeze solution, supplemental heat can be provided when temperatures fall below the level of the antifreeze solution. Other means of freeze protection for water-filled piping, including heated valve enclosures, heat tracing, insulation, or other methods are allowed by the applicable installation standards.
Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures can pose hazards to fire and life safety, but many of the hazards can be mitigated with a little preparation by building owners and facility managers; and enforced by those inspecting the property. Preparation and management of winter-related fire and life safety issues referenced in the Fire Code are critical to staying safe in the cold weather.
NFPA offers free resources on winter fire safety, as well as free infographics on a number of topics included winter fires and safe electrical practices. You can also find reports, data and statistics on winter related fire safety issues on www.nfpa.org.
Thanks for reading, stay safe!
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Oxygen reduction (or hypoxic) systems are being used in warehouse facilities as an alternative to sprinkler protection. The basic principle of operation is to displace the ambient oxygen in an enclosed environment with one or more nitrogen generators.
The Research Foundation facilitated the project “Review of Oxygen Reduction Systems for Warehouse Storage Applications” as a literature review that helps clarify the current state of oxygen reduction system design and testing. The project also includes a gap analysis comparing current approaches to real-world applications.
To be held Thursday, February 7 at12:30-2:00 pm, the webinar will discuss findings on this effort. Presenters will include:
Photo Courtesy of Liberty Mutual Insurance.
Impact of freezing temperatures on sprinkler pipe. This ice plug was found in a sprinkler system in a freezer however,
pipes in cold areas of an unheated building could produce similar results.
The issue of temperature frequently comes up in discussions about sprinklers and sprinkler systems. Here at NFPA, we receive a great deal of questions related to the exposure of sprinkler systems to potentially freezing temperatures. So, given the time of year and declining temperatures across the country, it seemed like a good time to get cozy with sprinkler freeze-prevention methods.
When water freezes, it expands and can cause damage to pipe and fittings, and yes even to sprinklers themselves. Over the years, the solution to the freezing problem has been to use a dry pipe system, a preaction system, or some combination of the two. The costs associated with installing a dry pipe or preaction system; however, can be prohibitive and the price tag for maintaining these systems can be equally daunting so be sure to fully understand the advantages, disadvantages and bottom line for these solutions.
Then there’s the option of heat tracing. This approach is not as simple as it may appear to be, and may not be the best protection method because of the need for insulating the pipe and electronic supervision of the power to the heating element.
In recent years, the environmental problems associated with anti-freeze systems have been well-documented. Since 2013, NFPA 13 has limited the use of anti-freeze solutions to listed solutions only. There have not been any pre-mixed or concentrate solutions for anti-freeze in fire protection piping listed - until recently. NFPA employees are not inclined to provide specific product or manufacturer recommendations; however, a quick search for “Listed Anti-freeze” on the UL web-site shows a product that is currently available and capable of protecting piping in cold climates - so anti-freeze is making a comeback!
Whatever product or solution you decide to use, it’s important to remember to closely follow the listing and manufacturer’s instructions. Guidelines vary from product to product and often times vary from previously accepted practices. Misusing a listed product can be as dangerous as using an unlisted product; so be sure to use the right option and apply the right knowledge for maximum benefit and safety.
For example, NFPA 13 requires the use of an expansion chamber when using anti-freeze in a sprinkler system because fluids expand and contract due to varying temperatures. Figure 22.214.171.124 of the standard illustrates the appropriate arrangement of the expansion chamber and a backflow preventer (where required); while the manufacturer’s instructions should be used to determine the size of the expansion chamber. There are limitations to using anti-freeze in a system. System volume and limitations on the classification of occupancy or sprinkler type need to be considered. When using these chemicals, it is critical that the manufacturer’s instructions and listing limitations be followed.
As meteorologists warn, “Baby, it’s cold outside” and water cooler conversations center around tumbling temperatures – keep in mind that frigid weather can have a brutal impact on sprinkler systems. Look at systems, solutions, and safety in totality to ensure that the refrain, “Baby, it’s cold outside” is not followed by “darn, it’s wet inside” due to pipes bursting or sprinkler systems malfunctioning!
The Research Foundation has issued an RFP for a project contractor for the Prototype Fuel Load Survey Methodology research project. RFP is available on the Foundation website. The deadline for proposals is January 25 at 5pm Eastern.
Door gaps in health care facilities, life safety ramifications of emerging health care trends, and on-the-job violence experienced by first responders are among the highlights of the January/February 2019 NFPA Journal.
Our cover story on responder violence, “Lasting Impact,” is a sobering look at a problem that has historically been under reported and not well understood. Violence is a fact of life for emergency medical technicians and other first responders, many of whom are routinely threatened, assaulted, and verbally abused by the people they are ostensibly trying to assist. Responders say the abuse can add up “like a thousand paper cuts” and result in a severe psychological toll, affecting their behavior and their effectiveness in the field. Our story looks at ways this problem is finally emerging from the shadows, and at new research that is helping responders and departments acknowledge the issue and take steps to address it.
Our health care focus in this issue includes coverage of emerging health care issues—ranging from microhospitals to proton therapy facilities—and their associated safety considerations. Another health care feature looks at the potentially large implications of door gaps for health care facilities.
A pair of articles addresses the historically destructive wildfire that leveled much of Paradise, California, in November. Our lead “Dispatches” story, “Old & In Harm’s Way,” looks at how the town’s older demographic profile resulted in a population at much greater risk to a fast-moving wildfire, and how the Camp Fire had a disproportionate impact on those people in terms of deaths and injuries. In “135 Minutes,” our “Perspectives” topic in this issue, we interview an administrator at Feather River Hospital, located in Paradise, about how he helped organize a last-second evacuation of the hospital as the newly ignited Camp Fire mushroomed and began its devastating sweep through the town.
The January/February NFPA Journal is out now in print, online, and through the Journal app.
We are now accepting nominations for the 2019 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal, which recognizes outstanding advocacy efforts aimed at reducing losses associated with fire, electrical, or other hazards.
The advocacy medal honors an individual or group that shares the values of former NFPA President James Shannon. During his 12-year tenure as president, Shannon had an exceptional record of advocacy efforts tied to life safety issues. Under his leadership, NFPA considerably advanced its mission of fire safety, most notably by spearheading the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes and advocating for fire sprinklers in all new homes.
Nominees should also be involved in advocacy efforts that advance NFPA’s mission, take into account cost-effectiveness, and involve collaboration with NFPA and other organizations. Previous medal recipients include Jim Dalton, whose efforts supporting a career-long commitment to fire safety led to the passage of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act. Legislator Ann Jones received the medal in 2017 following her efforts leading to a nationwide requirement for home fire sprinklers in Wales.
Nominations are open to members of the fire service or any other person or group whose advocacy efforts meet the award’s criteria. The medal recipient will be honored at NFPA’s Conference & Expo in San Antonio, Texas, in June 2019. NFPA will cover the recipient’s travel and lodging.