Andrew L. Shakely, PE, LEED AP BD+C | 4 Min Read
Even with the trend towards environmentally-friendly processes and products, almost every manufacturer utilizes some hazardous materials that are a necessary part of their manufacturing or maintenance operations. If this applies to your company, do you know if you are storing and using these items safely and in compliance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Fire Code (IFC) and the International Building Code (IBC)?
It all starts with understanding what hazardous materials you have and knowing their MAQs – or Maximum Allowable Quantities – for each type of hazardous material used in your facility. Storing or using quantities of material in amounts greater than their MAQ will require additional safeguards to be installed in your facility. It may even require that a portion of your facility be categorized as a Hazardous Occupancy.
What is a MAQ and what are Control Areas?
The Code defines the MAQ – Maximum Allowable Quantity – of a hazardous material as the amount of the material that can be stored, used, dispensed, or handled within a Control Area. A Control Area is a defined area of a facility that allows for limited amounts of hazardous materials to be stored or used without classifying the entire facility as a High Hazard H Occupancy. A Control Area can be either an interior or exterior space within a facility or even the entire facility if the hazardous materials are below their MAQs. Most often, a Control Area is an enclosed room within a facility with a minimum 1-hour fire separation from the remaining facility. The Control Area may have special safety systems such as continuous ventilation systems, emergency power, alarms, and secondary containment of the sprinkler system discharge, depending on the type of product in the room. Buildings can have multiple Control Areas based on their size and number of stories.
To begin evaluating your Control Area needs, you must first categorize and quantify the amount of hazardous materials in your facility. This will allow you to identify whether you are exceeding your MAQs for any of the hazardous materials.
Categorize Your Materials
The IBC and IFC categorize hazardous materials into two main categories: Physical Hazards that pose a safety hazard, such as risk for explosion or flammability, and Health Hazards, such as toxicity or corrosiveness. It is possible for a material to be classified in multiple hazard categories. The IBC and IFC Hazard Categories are:
Combustible DustFlammable Liquids- Combined
Combustible FibersFlammable Solid
Combustible LiquidsInert Gasses
Consumer FireworksOrganic Peroxides
Cryogenics, FlammableOxidizer Gasses
Flammable GassesUnstable (reactive)
Flammable LiquidsWater Reactive