Hazmat Investigations Inform NFPA 401 Revision

Hazmat Investigations Inform NFPA 401 Revision

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board says its investigations helped direct the National Fire Protection Association’s guidance on preventing hazmat fires and chemical reactions.

NFPA published NFPA 401, Recommended Practice for the Prevention of Fires and Uncontrolled Chemical Reactions Associated with the Handling of Hazardous Waste. It went into effect Dec. 21, 2023.

The NFPA developed the new recommended practices in response to recommendations issued by the CSB in several investigations of fires and explosions involving hazardous materials.  

In 2006 fires and explosions at the Environmental Quality hazardous waste facility in Apex, N.C., destroyed the entire facility and resulted in 16,000 residents being evacuated. A fire at the facility had spread to a flammable liquid storage area, causing 55-gallon drums of flammable hazardous waste to explode and sending fireballs hundreds of feet into the air.

Also Read: Chemical Safety Board Investigating 2 Releases

Through its investigation of the EQ incident, CSB found that there had been 21 other fire and chemical release incidents at hazardous waste facilities across the United States in the preceding 5-year span. As a result, the CSB recommended that the Environmental Technology Council work with NFPA to develop a standard specific to hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities.

CSB reiterated this recommendation in 2010 after the agency investigated an explosion and fire at the Veolia ES Technical Solutions facility in West Carrollton, Ohio. There, flammable vapor released from a waste recycling process ignited and violently exploded, injuring four workers and damaging approximately 20 nearby residences and businesses in addition to eight structures at the facility.

Additionally, in 2011, an explosion and fire occurred at a fireworks storage facility near Honolulu, Hawaii, leased and operated by Donaldson Enterprises, killing five employees. As a result of its investigation, CSB recommended that NFPA develop a new standard, or incorporate within an existing standard, best practices for the safe disposal of waste fireworks, consistent with environmental requirements.

CSB Chairperson Steve Owens said, “Although it took several years, we appreciate NFPA’s efforts to develop this significant document. It provides important guidance on practices and safeguards necessary to prevent fires and explosions associated with these types of hazardous materials and can help prevent similar incidents in the future.”

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