OSHA proposes new fire safety standards

WASHINGTON – The National Marine Manufacturers Association is backing a proposal by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to modernize its fire safety standards, in use since 1969, to reflect modern manufacturing safety practices at U.S. boat building plants, NMMA said in a release today.

“The outdated standards currently in place do not reflect fire safety advancements developed over 37 years,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “Despite our boat manufacturers investing time and money in newer and safer technologies, many state OSHA agencies and local fire departments refer to these antiquated federal OSHA standards when enforcing local fire code or worker safety regulations.”

Starting in the early 1990s, the NMMA and the American Composite Manufacturers Association approached OSHA to update its fire safety standards to reflect improvements in technology. At that time, OSHA encouraged the industry to work with the National Fire Protection Association, an advocate of fire prevention and an authoritative source on public safety, to have it evaluate composite manufacturing operations and determine if the hazards from these operations warranted a change to the safety standards.

“When a regulatory agency has a rule on the books that both it and the industry know is outdated, something needs to be done to fix it,” said John McKnight, NMMA’s director of Environmental and Safety Compliance.

NFPA revised its standards in 1996 to address the specific hazards and requirements of applying resin in the recreational boat manufacturing process. Extensive testing, included measuring the level of concentration of flammable vapor in a spray-booth, over several years led the NFPA to conclude that these new standards were appropriate for the protection of workers and the manufacturing facility.

However, there have been numerous cases in the boating industry where a state OSHA office cited a boat builder for not complying with the 1969 standards, even though the plants were in compliance with the updated NFPA fire safety standards.

“This new rule will allow industry to use the most modern fire prevention safety procedures and not be held to an outdated standard that doesn’t reflect today’s technology,” said Monita Fontaine, NMMA vice president and senior counsel of Government Relations. “This proposal is a step in the right direction – it is commonsense policy that reflects modern manufacturing methods.”

OSHA is now seeking public comments on the proposal before the final rulemaking. OSHA is requesting that specific information and data related to the proposed rule be included to support submitted comments.

Public comments must be submitted by Feb. 20, 2007, either electronically through OSHA’s Web site http://ecomments.osha.gov; via fax at (202) 693-1648; or by mail to OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. S-778B, Room N2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20210.

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