Written by Steve Hudgik
What Are NFPA Standards?
The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) publishes over 300 standards that are primarily focused on fire protection. The purpose of the NFPA standards and codes is to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other risks. However, following NFPA standards results in an overall safer workplace.
NFPA does not have the authority to enforce their standards and codes. However, many of the NFPA standards are referenced by OSHA, making them part of the OSHA requirements. Even those NFPA standards that are not referenced by OSHA can be considered as being required by OSHA under the general duty clause. Although not required by law, if you are found by OSHA to not be in compliance with an NFPA standard, you can expect a citation.
The NFPA standards and codes are consensus standards written and updated by more than 250 NFPA Code Making Panels and Technical Committees. All NFPA standards are reviewed for updating once every three to five years. Anyone can propose changes to NFPA standards by submitting a proposal to the appropriate Code Making Panel or Technical Committee.
NFPA committees and panels typically have no more than thirty voting members representing a balance of interests. Appointment to a committee is based on such factors as technical expertise, professional standing, commitment to public safety and the ability to bring to the table the point of view of a category of interested people or groups. The committee must reach a consensus in order to take action on an item.
NFPA standards are consensus standards. This means that they result from an agreement by most participants, after they have resolved or mitigated the objections of the minority. The objective is to not just have a majority rule, but to achieve the most agreeable decision.
The NFPA standards development and updating process encourages public participation. The process contains the following five basic steps:
- The Call for Proposals
- Report on Proposals (ROP)
- Report on Comments (ROC)
- The Association Technical Meeting
- Standards Council Consideration and Issuance
A complete list of NFPA standards is available on the NFPA web site (1) at: NFPA Standards
NFPA allows their standards to be read online. To read a standard select it from the above page. On the page for the selected standard click on the “View the document online” link. You do not need to be an NFPA member, but you will need to register for access to the NFPA standards online. Registration is free.
(1) NOTE - Information from the NFPA Standards Directory. http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/codesstandards/directory/nfpastandardsdirectory_2011.pdf