Liquid Hazard - Global Risk Consultants

Liquid Hazard
A new advocacy effort seeks regulatory consistency around the manufacture,
transport, and storage of flammable and combustible liquids
FOR ANYONE STORING AND transporting flammable
and combustible liquids, the stakes could not be higher,
according to David Nugent, who has worked in the field of
industrial fire protection for more than 30 years.
Fires that occur with these liquid chemicals can result in
injuries and fatalities to building occupants, the surrounding population, and emergency responders. These fires
can also cause significant damage to the environment—
destroying wildlife, contaminating drinking water, and
sending toxic chemicals into the air.
Given the potential dangers, you might expect the safety
regulations on how these products are shipped and stored
to be widely adopted, and you’d be right—to a degree.
More than 30 states have adopted NFPA 30, Flammable and
Combustible Liquids Code, which outlines the hazards, and
prescribes in detail the protection required to prevent and
mitigate those risks, said Nugent, who has been on the
NFPA 30 technical committee for more than 10 years.
But, according to Nugent and a newly formed advocacy
group called the Industrial Packaging Safety Alliance,
there’s one big problem. The two biggest federal regulators
of these chemicals, the U.S. Department of Transportation
(DOT) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “are lagging way behind” many of the safety
Photographs: Shutterstock
measures prescribed in NFPA 30, Nugent
said. The result is a regulatory disconnect
that can cause confusion for companies that
manufacture, ship, and store these products,
which as a result increases the risk of an
accident, he said.
DOT regulates the transportation of flammable and combustible liquids, but its codes
do not consider fire protection or how well
containers will perform in a fire situation.
As a result, compliant DOT containers,
perfectly legal on the road, might not be
compliant with the majority of state and
local fire codes—based on NFPA 30—when
they reach their destination, Nugent said.
Meanwhile, OSHA regulations, which are
based on NFPA 30, aren’t up to par either,
according to Nugent. That’s because they are
based on the 1969 edition of NFPA 30, much
of which is silent on many of the important
information in the latest 2015 edition.
Achieving regulatory clarity and consistency is the goal of the Industrial Packaging
Safety Alliance, also known as PackSafe.
The effort seeks support from a coalition of
stakeholders including manufacturers and
users of packaging material, risk managers, insurers, and code officials. PackSafe
announced its formation on April 14 with
the release of “Transportation and Storage
of Containerized Flammable and Combustible Liquids: The Disconnect Between U.S.
Federal Regulations, and State and Local Fire
Codes,” a white paper written by Nugent.
Nugent, who currently works as a senior
consultant for Global Risk Consultants,
spoke with NFPA Journal about the aims
of PackSafe and how disparities in federal,
state, and local regulations can lead to
unsafe conditions.
What kinds of chemicals are we talking
about and how do you classify which
ones pose the most risk?
There are hundreds of pure and blended
materials categorized as flammable and
combustible liquids out there. When classifying these materials, we’re looking at
the physical properties of a liquid and how
easily it ignites. NFPA 30 ranks these liquids
into six classes based on the flashpoint, but
there are other properties to consider, such
as the heat release rate. Each chemical has a
unique heat of combustion. A material like
gasoline, for instance, has a much higher
heat of combustion than an alcohol blend
like whiskey, so if whiskey is ignited, it burns
with a much lower heat release rate than
gasoline. Another thing to consider is reactivity. Some of these liquids are chemically
reactive—not only will they burn, but some
will self react when they get above a certain
These substances can be packaged in containers in an array of sizes and types, based
on customer demand. Containers are made
from glass, steel, plastic, fiberboard, or various combinations integrated into composites.
Read “Transportation and
Storage of Containerized
Flammable and Combustible
Liquids: The Disconnect
Between U.S. Federal
Regulations, and State and
Local Fire Codes,” a white
paper written for PackSafe
by David Nugent.
Where are they stored?
There are three main categories: Production
plants or factories that either use or manufacture materials; warehouses or standalone
distribution centers; and retail settings like
big-box stores. In terms of size, you could
have a facility where these materials are
stored in a small room with several hundred
gallons, or it could be a warehouse or large
distribution center with millions of gallons.
Is there an incident that illustrates the
environmental damage a fire in one of
these facilities can cause?
In 1986, a Sandoz agrochemical storehouse
in Switzerland caught fire. The local fire
department took water from the Rhine
River, which was just a few hundred feet
away, and discharged it on the fire. Where
do you think all the water went? It drained
right back into the river, carrying tons of
chemicals with it. The disaster killed the fish
for nearly the entire length of the river, from
Switzerland all the way to the river’s mouth
in The Netherlands, on the North Sea. If you
want to see the environmental impact these
fires can have, that’s your poster child.
What federal agencies and regulations
oversee the industry in the U.S.?
DOT uses Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which has a series of provisions
addressing the transportation of hazardous
materials, including flammable and combustible liquids. This regulation is based on
United Nations’ recommendations. OSHA
uses 29 CFR 1910.106, which applies to the
handling, storing, and use of flammable
and combustible liquids. The OSHA code is
based on the 1969 version of NFPA 30 and
certain interpretive letters. That code is 46
years old. Neither the DOT or OSHA regulations sufficiently address fire risks associated
with flammable or combustible liquids.
Why hasn’t OSHA updated to a more
recent version of NFPA 30?
I’ve been involved with NFPA 30 since the
late 1980s and I have never been given a
good reason why OSHA continues to use the
1969 version of NFPA 30. It’s confounding.
How has NFPA 30 changed since 1969?
For starters, there have been 15 revisions
to NFPA 30 since 1969. The most significant change occurred in the 1996 edition, a
result of a 1987 fire at a Sherwin-Williams
paint warehouse in Dayton, Ohio. The fire
spread very quickly because the building
contained 1.5 million gallons of unprotected
flammable liquid. The building did have
water-based sprinklers, but they were totally
inadequate for the stored commodity. That
fire was a wake-up call for a lot of people,
and it made us realize the shortcomings of
NFPA 30—back then, the code wasn’t as
sophisticated as it is today. The tables that
specify container size and class of liquid
allowed, as well as sprinkler system design
criteria—none of it was based on actual fire
tests. Also, the information was located in
the appendix of the code, which meant it
was not enforceable.
Following the Sherwin-Williams fire,
NFPA restructured the NFPA 30 technical
committee, and a number of large fire test
programs took place, many of which were
organized by the Fire Protection Research
Foundation. As a result, a whole new series
of protection tables evolved and were moved
into the body of the code. The code became
so much more meaningful, because the protection schemes were based on actual fire
tests that mimicked real situations.
I imagine there have been a lot of
advancements in technology and
research since then, too.
There have been many changes to both container types and how they perform in fires,
and to sprinkler system designs and technology. The 1969 version of NFPA 30 had little
to no information on electrostatic ignition
risk. NFPA now has an entire standard, NFPA
77, Recommended Practice on Static Electricity,
that addresses it. OSHA is totally silent on all
of these changes. The 2015 edition of NFPA
30 has specific prescriptive requirements that
address all of these changes and issues.
What happens in a state or local
jurisdiction that has adopted a recent
version of NFPA 30? Does OSHA take
precedence, or do local laws?
If you ask that question of OSHA, “Which
path should we follow?,” they are OK with
people following the latest version of NFPA
30, or the version adopted at the local or
state level.
So what’s the problem? Doesn’t that
sufficiently cover it?
Problems arise when people wrongfully
assume that something that is compliant
with DOT or OSHA is also compliant with
local and state codes. That can be confusing
and can lead to increased fire risk. If people
are not informed on the range of applicable
codes at the federal and local levels, they
might be using a storage strategy that is inadequate. They could be in violation of local
codes, which is a big problem in and of itself.
What exactly is PackSafe and when was
the effort launched?
It’s an alliance of stakeholders attempting
to address this disconnect between federal
regulations and local and state codes and
make industrial packaging safer for workers
and the public. We are advocating regulatory
clarity and consistency by engaging the legislative and regulatory bodies out there that
write these federal regulations. The effort
really began about 14 months ago and it’s
been building ever since. A lot of time was
spent defining the problem, coming up with
a strategy and plan, and explaining
the plan to all the stakeholders. Now
we’re focused on executing the plan.
What’s the plan and where
are you now?
The next step is to submit a formal
letter to OSHA asking it to exercise
reasonable diligence and reply to a
simple question: How can PackSafe
assist OSHA in reviewing and updating OSHA regulations to incorporate
the 2015 version of NFPA 30? Our
vision is for OSHA to incorporate the
2015 edition of NFPA 30 by reference.
There is also a parallel educational
process going on. I wrote a white
paper that is being widely distributed,
including to government officials and
members of the Congressional Fire
Services Caucus.
who work in these various occupancies, educating people on regulation
compliance is a pretty significant
effort, and this is just one of many
facets to regulatory compliance. If you
can make it simpler and more effective, it makes everyone’s job easier and
leads to a safer workplace.
Is this lag in federal code
adoption unique, or part of a
bigger problem?
I’m aware of other issues with outdated codes, but as far as PackSafe is
concerned, we are just focused on the
issues I’m outlining here. We’re not
here to right all the wrongs of federal
regulation—we could spend lot of
time on that I’m sure. But this is such
a difficult thing to change, we just
want to focus on this issue and get
OSHA to adopt NFPA 30 and hopefully have an influence on DOT so it
does not continue to ignore the fire
risk, like it is currently doing.
How widely is PackSafe
supported among other
stakeholders in the industry?
These people all get it—the more
people you talk to and explain this
to, you get a lot of “wows.” Almost
everyone who hears about this thinks
it’s a great idea and wants to support
it in some way. Everyone in the industry confronts these issues; this is their
day to day, and it’s a real headache.
Think about it: if you have employees