Oct 26, 2020
Mike Snyder is a chemical engineer with a number of professional certifications including his P.E., CSP and CFPS. With more than 30 years in loss prevention and process safety, Mike is no slouch when it comes to hazardous materials. In this episode of Fire Code Tech, we discuss hazardous materials and their impact on the built environment. Mike discusses his history in fire protection and life safety and gives insight to the complex problem of navigating the codes and standards associated with the storage and use of hazardous materials.
I would love to hear about your work history and how you became
involved in fire protection and life safety?
Can you speak on your professional certifications and more specifically your CSP?
How would you describe how you found yourself dealing with hazardous materials?
What are hazardous materials and how do we define them?
How do we define occupancy classifications and what does that mean in the context of hazardous materials?
Would you speak about how one would go through and determine if they have prohibitive amounts of hazardous materials?
How does one begin to evaluate the hazards of combustible dusts?
Do you have any comments or analysis for the tragedy of the recent explosion in Beirut?
What do you see as a trend in the industry right now?
What resources would you recommend to professionals that want to learn more about chemical safety?
Hello, all welcome to the show. I'm Gus Gagliardi, and this is fire code tech on fire code tech. We interview fire protection professionals from all different careers and backgrounds in order to provide insight and a resource for those in the field. My goal is to help you become a more informed fire protection.
Professional fire code tech has interviews with engineers and researchers, fire marshals, and insurance professionals and highlights topics like codes and standards, engineering systems, professional development, and trending topics in the industry. So if you're someone who wants to know more about fire protection or the fascinating stories of those who are in the field, you're in the right place.
Welcome to episode 15 of fire code tech. On this episode, we have Mike Snyder. Mike is a chemical engineer with the host of professional certifications, like his professional engineering license, and he is a certified safety practitioner as well as a certified fire protection specialist. In today's episode of fire code tech, we talk about group H occupancies and hazardous materials.
Mike is the real deal when it comes to chemical safety and hazardous materials with an over 30 year career in process safety and chemical engineering. Mike really knows this stuff. I had the good fortune of finding a presentation by Mike on group H occupancies. When I was working on a job that was dealing with, as Mike would say, appreciable amounts of hazardous materials in excess of the maximum allowable quantities defined in the international building code.
And I was just ecstatic to find such a good resource. If you're a little unsure. On what hazardous materials are or what are some of the implications in the built environment for hazardous materials? You're gonna love this episode. If you wanna reach out and have a conversation about fire protection, or if you have an idea for a podcast guest or a topic, you can reach firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't forget to follow us on social media and subscribe. So you never miss an episode. Let's get into the show. Hello, Mike, thanks for coming on the show. Hey, I appreciate it. Well, thank you very much for having me and I look forward to, uh, a robust conversation about, uh, my background and also, uh, hazardous materials and their impact in the fire protection community.
Definitely. Wonderful. Yeah. I wanted to just get started with, uh, you know, broadly on your career and a little bit about your history and, um, how you have found yourself in life safety and, uh, engineering. If you wouldn't mind Mike? Oh, absolutely. As I explained my career to people, I always have to start with three formative experiences.
I've had very early in my, my life. And that was, I had a grandfather who was a, essentially a safety engineer in a zinc manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania. And through him at a very early age, like nine or 10, I could see the impact on him and to his colleagues when an accident happened. And the joy that would be received when hazards were identified and people were protected.
So that was kind of a Sentinel, uh, experience in, in, in my upbringing. And then. Advanced to age 16. And I, I had the honor of, uh, joining, uh, a volunteer fire company, the Aquacel volunteer fire company, where I was able to see in emergency situations when preplanning and good design took play, how effective and safe emergency response could be.
And unfortunately you would see outcomes that were bad when uh, emergency response was not considered in, in building or facility design. Um, and then in my senior year in high school, I had an instructor, uh, who developed a passion for me in chemistry. And so those three things together drove me into the field of chemical engineering.
Um, and really that was what started my, my interest in this area of trying to blend engineering. Code issues and chemistry. Um, and probably one other important event in the beginning of my career was I, I interned in between my junior and senior year of college for the Dow chemical company and spent that summer doing fire protection and loss control engineering projects.
And at the end of that session, uh, a couple of senior, um, members of the engineering team took me aside and said, Mike, we. Appreciate the passion you bring to this loss control in fire protection engineering. But if you're ever going to be effective in this field, you need to walk a season in the shoes of the manufacturing engineers that you're gonna be guiding in the future so that, you know, the first.
Piece of assignment professionally would be to get in the trenches, slug it out and understand the challenges that that people are facing there. And so, you know, at that time, that day, that was a very demotivational comment. But yet in retrospect, it was probably one, one of the most Sage pieces of advice I got and I followed it.
And so I did spend, uh, the first part of my career in chemical manufacturing and to see the challenges, uh, that face people, not that they don't care about loss control, but it has to be blended and prioritized with a lot of other things that, uh, that are involved. And from that first assignment for about nearly five years in manufacturing, I then progressed through the chemical industry in a number of occupational and process safety roles and end it my career in the industry, uh, the last eight years.
Working as the global director for both occupational and process safety for Dow Corning corporation. The other piece during that experience, I volunteered in the municipal volunteer fire service and ultimately became the chief fire officer and fire marshal, uh, for a fairly busy and active, uh, company here in Michigan.
Um, responding about 500 times a year and also getting involved in, in code compliance reviews. And then I retired in 2016 and since then have joined DECRA, uh, and DECRA process safety is a chemical process safety consulting group that looks at all of these different aspects of chemical, uh, evaluation, chemical classification, and then the controls in industry and in use and in transportation, uh, that get deployed, um, when you're handling these materials.
And so there's been kind of that continuum of chemistry through my life, but looking at it in, in different applications, That's uh, extremely fascinating. Um, so glad to hear your description of your career. Yeah. I've have, uh, I've found you through. Uh, beautiful presentation on, uh, hazardous materials, but, uh, it, uh, paints a even more vivid picture to hear you, uh, uh, fill in, uh, the arc of your, uh, career so far.
So that's really, that's really fascinating. Oh, well, no, thank you. And, you know, I guess maybe the other part is, and we'll talk about this, I think a bit further, obviously the first time anyone is exposed to chemistry in kind of a training or an academic setting, right. It can be, it can be daunting. Uh, and, and, you know, the standpoint here stay the course, you can learn the principles that are necessary to be successful.
You can think about it and distill it down to easy components and it will make a difference in your professional career. So, you know, sometimes people go, oh my God, it's chemistry. It's okay. You will get through it. And you will learn important things for your career. Yeah, I think that's a great point, Mike.
Uh, the degree program that I came out of, uh, at Oklahoma state university has recently put more emphasis on chemistry and added some more chemistry classes to the degree plan. And I think that's, uh, a sound thing to do because, you know, as we keep advancing in material science and keep having different and new hazards, it's just, uh, it's a, uh, a component of life safety.
That's not going anywhere. And you have to have that understanding of, uh, properties and their chemical properties materials in their chemical and physical properties. So. That's great. Excellent. Anyways, well, I wanted to move on. Um, I see you have, uh, several professional certifications and I just wanted to get a little bit more about, um, your professional certifications and maybe, uh, you, how you acquired 'em.
Uh, I haven't had a, uh, certified, uh, safety professional on the show yet, so I'd be especially interested to hear more about that certification in particular, if oh, sure. Maybe in the broadest context, professional certifications and credentials are really important in your core areas of focus to have really an independent let's call it good housekeeping seal of approval in the technology area, uh, that you have.
I had a plant manager many years ago that I worked for, who really encouraged me in this space. And it started the conversation with something like Mike. We know you are an expert in certain areas. Occupational and process safety. And we respect that. However, as you have to represent our company outside to our neighbors, to the regulators, they don't have that background.
They don't have the relationship with you and these credentials, at least in, in a starting conversation say, Hey, there's been a third party body. That's looked at your, um, credentials and you have taken a test or two to validate your knowledge. And, and I think you have to kind of keep that in the back of your mind that it is oftentimes a competency door opener, uh, particularly as you're dealing with public bodies.
Um, and that was kind of how this, this came to be. My first credential was professional engineer, and that was really to be licensed in, in the state of Michigan, uh, in the area of fire protection and chemical engineer. Um, subsequently I, I worked on the certified fire protection specialist through the NFPA.
And that really is that you have a broad based set of knowledge in the application of N FPA codes and standards. And then I finished with certified safety professional, which looks at a wide variety of issues from, you know, industrial hygiene applications to ergonomics, to just, you know, some basic scientific calculations in the workplace to reduce employee exposure.
Um, the, the, the CSP one I did late in my career. And that was when I was the global director of both occupational and process safety in do Corning, because I truly believe that as part of a career development plan, you need to find one or two of the gold standard certifications to work through. And that's, you know, there's no place in your career where you can't say, geez, I'm gonna, uh, you know, I'm too old, or I don't have enough experience in background.
You can build that. And you can do that. And I wanted to role model that for the people in our organization that okay, even a old guy late in his career could, could do that. And I had to work at it, right. It was not a simple, uh, piece. I had to do a fair amount of studying in preparation for it. Uh, but ultimately was successful.
The other thing I'll just briefly go back to is early in my career. Um, we had a lot of people in our organization that were called loss prevention officers, which were basically, uh, fire protection technicians. And early in that process, we used a credentialing program through NFPA called certified fire inspector.
And it was really a fascinating experience because here you had people with a variety of backgrounds, uh, oftentimes without any type of advanced degrees to begin with. And we studied and we worked and we did projects and they went through the certification process and it was a first of all, it was a great raise, the bar exercise where people really built their capability.
Secondly, they were very proud of the cred. Credential and a number of them took that as kind of the catalyst to work on other credentials. And in several cases, degrees that have really helped them achieve professional success. And so, you know, credentialing not to hold the certificate on your wall, but really as a vehicle to grow your capability and hopefully advance further in this technology area, that's really what it's all about.
That's a wonderful sentiment. Yeah. I appreciate that. Uh, insight as somebody who is looking, you know, into getting, working on getting my professional engineering certification and the application process, and, you know, I looked into, uh, CSP and see the value of that and the broad, uh, safety that it covers.
And the, like you said, previously, the implications of obtaining these certifications and what that says about you as a professional and, um, To, uh, your employer about your passion for your job. So I think those are all great points. Oh, no. Great. And, and again, I think both personally and professionally, it, it's not the, again, it's not the certificate or the letters, but it's the fact that you've gotten that third party review, uh, that builds that, that professional, uh, credibility.
Right. And, and that's at the end of the day, particularly in, you know, matters of life and property safety, that credibility is extremely important. Definitely. Definitely. That's awesome. So I wanted to, uh, get into a little bit of the meat of your specialty and just some topics that I've had some definite interest in lately through, um, project work and through just, um, being in, uh, uh, career in which I'm presented with different chemical hazards on a daily basis.
But, uh, yeah, I just wanted to speak with you more about, uh, your experience with hazardous materials and get into that subject a little bit more with you and, uh, how you got, uh, yeah, just, uh, I know you have the chemical engineering and the, uh, safety piece and you've worked for a chemical company, but the hazard hazardous materials specifically.
Yeah. I'd like to hear more about your experience with that. Sure. So, you know, obviously, um, and, and, and I'll start with, I'll call it the academic side and then we'll step back. And I think, talk about how we, how you can frame this, that it's applicable really, to anybody who is gonna be touching, uh, has just materials in our, in our work process.
So, you know, most programs in chemical engineering and chemistry are looking at the normal routes. Of of basically how you, how you take chemistry or chemicals and move them from kind of condition one to condition two, very seldom. And, and even today, uh, in the academic environment is there are a lot of discussion about unanticipated consequences, contamination, or undesired reactions.
Um, and that probably is from a personal mission standpoint, getting that more robustly into our academic, uh, curriculum is still something that we need to do a, a greater deal of, of work on. Right. And if you think about our practice in fire safety, loss control and process safety, most of what we're really trying to do is can you identify the, the potential unanticipated outcomes?
And do you have proper Le levels of protection to, to deal with that? Oftentimes, as we talked about, right. Chemistry can be daunting. And so the things that as I reflected upon this in preparation for our discussion here, that I have found to be very effective in dealing with clients, in dealing with regulators, in dealing with community members is we have to take complex topics and frame them very straightforward and as simple as we can.
And that doesn't mean gloss over important facts, but you need to be able to distill down what is the exposure. What is the risk and how are we gonna control that? And I always kind of joked, right. If I could explain it to my mother and she could understand it, then I probably got it to the point that it was appropriate, uh, that I've, I've, I've distilled it down to its most simple element because oftentimes we love to talk in acronyms.
We love to talk in, in technical detail and there's a forum for that, right. With colleagues. And when people are doing technical review, but many times when you're dealing with a client or you're dealing with an owner or a authority having jurisdiction without, again, trying to, you know, say, well, you can't understand this, but simplify the problem.
And uh, all of a sudden people get on your, on your same page. And then I think you also have to think about the work process and, and you know, that. You're doing some type of work here with this hazardous chemical or with the code compliance there. How does it fit into the broader picture? And the way that I do that is I, in as simple as this sounds, it is the root of many problems in chemistry.
It starts with what is the problem we're trying to solve? And I, again, it's a very simple question, but I ask it three or four times a week. When we get into places where, oh, the client doesn't understand it, or the authority having jurisdiction is being unrealistic in this. I, I really come back and I ask that Sentinel question.
And when we have a dialogue there, it's like, oh, we're missing, we're missing the point or we're missing the, the understanding or the resistance of what we're doing. Um, and then, you know, obviously as, as you look at that, you need to make sure that you do have that background data. Uh, that's gonna be necessary to support the simplification and the discussion that you have there.
Again, if you, if you can kind of frame the issue or the hazards simp. You can think about it in the workflow, uh, and how it fits into the work process. And again, start with, you know, uh, what is the problem we're trying to solve? You will be much more successful. Uh, and I would say much more satisfied, uh, when you're dealing with these hazardous chemical challenges in your work.
Definitely. I think it's so easy to get, like you mentioned, lost in jargon and, you know, it's, we get so used to being technical, um, subject matter, you know, experts on fire protection or life safety and writing in a language that, uh, makes sense to you and properly defines the hazard. But I love that point about know your audience and.
Distill it down, make it simple, you know, don't it try. It's, it's much harder to, um, distill it down to the absolutely necessary facts than to write a novel about hazard analysis. Um, it's, it's easier to do. Honestly to be exhaustive and, and use, um, language that's, uh, jargon or just overly, uh, technical. So yeah, I love that point.
Right. And just, you know, as, as maybe a quick example of this, you know, I do a lot of work today, uh, with clients on combustible dust and the way that I get people calibrated about this is any material that's not made out of rock that has a particle size, less than 500 microns will. I can predict that to about 99% accuracy and, and the purist would kind of say, well, there's a couple of things on the periphery that, you know, don't quite fit into that, but things that are not fully oxidized, um, will burn.
And if the particle's small enough, you have a combustible dust hazard, and it's amazing how you take something that can be very complicated. And if you can get people to say, oh, well, we have a lot of that kind of stuff. All of a sudden you get somebody who's maybe resistive to the fact of, oh, that combustible dust doesn't apply here to something that says, oh, we may have a hazard, let's have an additional conversation.
Those are the kind of things you just need to kind of think about building in your toolbox to be able to break, you know, broker those conversations. I like that. Yeah. It seems like when I speak with a, a professional who has had, uh, success, they will oftentimes peel off a piece of this great, uh, Tactics or toolbox way to say, to bring.
The technical code in standards down to a level that's understandable for somebody who is, you know, in business development or they are, you know, an owner, you know, O oftentimes these people aren't technically savvy and it's not their job to be on fire protection and life safety. So you, you have to bridge the gap.
So that's a great point. But, um, anyways, I wanted to, um, just speak a little bit more about, you know, um, what are hazardous materials, you know, it's, I found it even difficult in my entry into, um, learning how to address these hazards is how do we know, you know, what is a toxic material and, or what is a caustic material, or, you know, what is a flammable liquid, and how do we know about what those are and the criteria for those.
But yeah, I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. So that is right. The quintessential challenge. Um, as you're starting to look at either an existing facility or a, a, a new design. And so, you know, there are two model programs or methods, uh, that are available to us to, to classify hazardous materials or any chemical to see if it fits into the hazardous material definition.
And there is the U United nations department of transportation, U N D O T, which will take materials into one of nine hazard classes. Um, and those are the oness that are used predominantly for transportation. I'll say this again, but you know, part of this is oftentimes you'll have a material that will meet the qualifications for more than one of those classifications.
And you have to make sure that you're thinking about the hazards that are in both. So for example, you could have a material that's both a poison and a flammable gas or a gas and you, you right. You have to kind of, it's not just one or the other in transportation rules. You have to just be very careful because when you placard to load, uh, some of these are what I would call primary and others are secondary, and there's all kinds of unique rules.
You need to just make sure that you open up the safety data sheet or the N D O T um, uh, book classification book, and make sure that you understand which of those are there. But let me advance to where I think most of us touch this and that is in the building, in the fire code. The building and the fire code is a bit more granular in how this is done.
And it basically looks at any chemical, uh, and identifies whether it has a physical hazard that is of interest, uh, to the building and fire code or health hazard. There are 17 different physical hazards that are evaluated in three different health hazards. Um, and there are a variety of definitions, uh, that are used to classify materials and again, into one or more.
And I, again will emphasize the or more, uh, buckets that have to be considered. And so, you know, in many cases and, and I'll take the simplest example, right? You could have a material that is a flammable liquid, and the classification of flammable liquid, as we all know is based. Uh, flashpoint and boiling point.
And, um, you know, you can either run a test in a laboratory or get the supplier through the safety data sheet to look at that. And you know, you get a lot of people to focus on that you can come to quick consensus. This is a flammable liquids, combustible liquid, or it is not a, an, an ignitable liquid at all.
When you go down the list to physical hazards and you start to look at things like pyrophoric organic peroxide, these are a little more complicated, uh, and the data is not always available. And you know, what, what I always just tell people is don't go this alone. As far as trying to make this determination, go back to the material supplier.
If it's not on the safety data sheet, call the information line or send an email and probe a bit to see if that data's been determined. And if it has asked to get a copy of that, to try to make a determination. And if that isn't available partner with somebody, and again, this is not a super expensive, uh, proposition, but partner with, um, uh, an advisor in the chemical testing or process safety area to help walk you through the most economic way to make that determination, because this is the gateway determination about whether or not.
Other aspects of the building code or restrictions of the building code apply. And we'll, we'll, we'll walk through in just a moment. You know, I, I spend a lot of time on the speaking circuit talking about group H occupancies for high hazard to make that determination. You need to understand the nature of the hazardous material.
And the code allows certain small amounts of material, depending on what code you're using. That could be called an exempt amount or a maximum allowable quantity or MAQ. And you need to look at every one of the chemicals that are being used and understand what is that threshold. If you can stay below the threshold, you can normally put that into most typical buildings.
There are some restrictions with educational and residential, but for normal commercial buildings. But if you anticipate or have usages above those do minis amounts, your building has to have special features, uh, because it becomes a group H occupancy and you know, the whole reason for that is to ensure safety of the workers to ensure safety of the neighbors to this facility.
And we oftentimes forget to ensure the safety of the emergency responders, right? The last thing you want to have happen is a small fire or other event, uh, happening in a building with hazardous materials. And because of some building deficiency, uh, emergency responders are injured or killed, uh, because the building's not able to withstand that challenge.
So it starts with understanding, um, in the model codes, right? Which again would be NFP 400. If you're using the N FPA series. Or annex E um, of the international fire code to really try to understand the definitions of these 17 physical hazards and three health hazards. And if you have more than the amount of material that's allowed, for example, in the international fire code in chapter 50, uh, that you're building has to have these additional features.
That's a, that's a great point about, um, how to find those definitions. I think this is such a good topic to go over because if you are not, um, effective in classifying your materials to begin with, this is the first step in the hazardous analysis or determining the, um, impact to your facility, whether it be existing or, um, new construction.
So yeah, I think if you are unsure about these factors, then you need to stop. And I like what you said about reaching out to the manufacturer and. Establishing the data through those channels, or usually there's, uh, material safety, data sheets. So those are also a good resource for these, um, different hazard category properties.
Um, you know, yeah. I like what you said about flammable and combustible liquids, and you know, how flashpoint and bullying point are the metrics in which we decide whether things are flammable and combustible. And, you know, as you start looking at these topics, those are some of the more, uh, Straightforward in determining and oftentimes have some of the easiest, uh, data to retrieve so that you can classify these things.
But yeah, no, I, I really like that description. And, and, and, and again, as we start to talk as fire protection and process safety professionals about this issue, um, it is extremely important that we help lead that conversation. Cuz many people who are occupying these facilities, running these facilities or designing these facilities, even say a typical architect, oftentimes don't have all the depth of knowledge and we need to kind of make sure in a simple way, uh, that they understand what's there because there's two really, I.
I'll call 'em milestones, right? When you're designing the building, right? The design features of that building it, you know, it's easier to change on paper than once the building is built. And so you have to have a very Frank conversation with that design team and the owner about, do you want this building to be able to handle in its life, lifespan materials greater than the exempt amount?
Because if you do, you probably want to invest now in the additional features and they, right. They have expense. They, they, they have capital implications. And so there's always kind of this resistance because once you cast that die and you say, okay, I'm not gonna invest in the group of. Each features, they are very complicated and very expensive to add.
And so during the life of the building, you also have to be careful that you manage change correctly. So if all of a sudden a new formulation comes in or a new product line, somebody has to go through this exercise again to say, all right, our building has limits. Let's look at the chemicals and the amount of chemicals that are gonna be there.
And are we exceeding the amounts? Uh, because oftentimes I, you know, in today's world, I get involved with clients who have missed that milestone, right? They, they have an ordinary F1, uh, type of occupancy, a normal manufacturing building they've changed formulations. And all of a sudden they are two or three or more times what's allowable by the, the code before you are in group H occupancies.
And obviously there are a variety of reasons that. Situations where that's discovered. Uh, and then you're under extreme duress, right? Cuz you may already have launched this product and now you have a building that doesn't conform to the requirements. So, you know, management of change, we may talk a little bit about that, uh, later in our discussion today.
But that is an area where I, you know, this is not just a chemical industry thing. This management of change hits all aspects of industry and we need to make sure we're sensitive to that. That's a great point. I like that. Yeah. I've spoken previously with, uh, loss prevention specialist and he was bringing up this term.
I probably haven't heard it since college, but uh, management of change for, uh, a building owner, uh, is a definitely. Important aspect of a building owner's approach to life safety and just, uh, making sure, you know, we see management of change in many industrial processes, but oftentimes it's overlooked as it regards to fire protection and life safety.
So I think that's a great point, but, um, no, I just wanted to, uh, proceed in the discussion with a little bit more information on, you know, we talked a little bit about H occupancies, but you know, for, for maybe those who aren't, um, as familiar with what we're talking about, um, yeah. Would you speak about occupancy classification and, and what that means as it relates to the building code and the, and the model codes in the us, um, as a baseline understanding for our discuss.
Um, leading on about each occupancies. Sure. So in the model codes, um, there every structure or part of a structure is designated normally with a number and a, or a letter and a number classification. So, you know, you'll have something like F one. H two, uh, S one. And that letter in number designation, start to indicate the nature of the operation, um, or the nature of the activities that go on in the building.
And while some people will smile and laugh a little bit about this, uh, it is the, the building code tries to match. The limitations and restrictions of a building with the nature of the hazards that are going on. Some people would say, we're not quite there yet. We're getting better, but it really is trying to make this the loss control and life safety features commensurate with the risk or hazard that exists.
And so in most situations where we have manufacturing, operations and chemicals, the typical occupancies that we will be dealing with are F one S one or S two for storage. And there's some limited operations that can go in there, or the series of H classifications and presently that's H one through H five, which represent high hazard occupancies.
When you cross the threshold from what I would call more low hazard occupancies, F one S one S two to one of the group H occupancies, the building code then has limitations on building height. Building size and other requirements, including emergency power ventilation. Um, and in some cases what they call explosion control, but think about it as explosion venting of the building.
So when you are looking at this, you, you need to kind of say, look, if I have the hazard, which is normally looking at. Material classifications and overlaying that with, do I have more than the allowable amount? Um, you have to really then say, okay, I am then prepared to invest in those protections. And again, it's not today only it's looking at the lifespan of this building.
Uh, because for example, if, if you, you know, if your building is limited in size, um, and now you build a larger building and cross that group H occupancy, it becomes very difficult. You may end up having to put additional firewalls into a building retroactively or explosion venting. And those are just very difficult situations.
So, um, a again, I would say in today's arena, we don't spend enough time, and it's not that it's a, a detailed or, or very difficult study, but, you know, read the definitions in the building in the fire code, spend an hour, um, of what, you know, group a group B group F group H, and they're very well defined and it, you know, Copy photocopy the papers or, you know, kind of write yourself a crib sheet because that's just something that can kind of help guide, uh, where you're going to be.
Um, number of papers that, that I've written for, uh, the global Congress of process safety on this in trying to just educate the broader community from architects to chemical process safety engineers, because it's just something we don't spend a lot of time doing, but crossing that I would say today, one of the biggest challenges we have in the built community is people who cross over that group H occupancy threshold, and don't recognize it.
We are creating unintended risk for, uh, the communities I talked about, the employees, the neighbors, and the emergency responders. And obviously that's not people's intention. It's just an oversight that creates that exposure. Definitely. Yeah. I find that people are not aware of, uh, high hazard storage, um, or high hazard commodities, oftentimes.
So, you know, sometimes these thresholds. Can be not, um, exorbitant amounts of these materials. So you might. Um, cross one of these thresholds without even realizing it, if you have something that's particularly hazardous. So yeah, I think that's a great point, right? People will, you can cross these thresholds, uh, uh, fairly easy if you're dealing with the, uh, nasty material, right.
Right. So, you know, materials that are highly toxic, um, uniquely reactive, like pyrophoric or unstable the thresholds are in the order of a few pounds, right? Where with like flammable liquids, those thresholds start at about 120 gallons. And then there are some additional allowances, uh, in the code. For example, if you're sprinkled you adequately sprinkled you, you end up, uh, being able to get some adders in there.
But again, even with flammable liquids, you're dealing with a couple of hundred gallons. Um, so again, if you're using just a few gallons, probably not a big issue, uh, but it is very easy to get above 200 gallons, right? That's four drums. That's not a lot, or it it's could be one IBC of, of liquid that get you over that threshold.
So it's easy to happen if you're not deliberate and disciplined in your approach. Definitely. I, I agree. Yeah. So that's great. Yeah. I definitely agree. You need to be aware of these chemicals and the thresholds. And so, yeah, that's a wonderful point. Um, I would think I wanted to proceed with, um, yeah, I, we talked a little bit about the impacts of the, the age occupancy, but I just wanted to circle back.
I, I think we talked about it. Yeah. If you touch on the critical factor that pushes an occupancy. Over into H occupancies and then, yeah, maybe more explicitly what I know you said, like at Def liberation, venting or explosion venting and, um, explosion proofing and some of the other, uh, stuff. Okay. So again, the, the at, at a very high level, the strategy that you do is you build an inventory of the chemicals that you're planning to use.
You're going. Figure out. So right. You could do this on a spreadsheet as an example, which of the 17 physical hazard categories and or three health hazard categories apply. And for each one of the boxes that you tick, right? And again, for a chemical, there could be multiple designations. You would go to the applicable tables, either in the, the NFPA fire and building code or into the international fire code, uh, to see what the exempt quantities are.
And if you are going to be above those quantities for any of those line items, that module or part of the building has to be classified accurately as a group H and again, then the numbers, uh, talk H one is an explosives, right? High energy, uh, type of release all the way through, down to H three and four, which are low, uh, lower pressure flammable and combustible liquid scenarios, and H four, uh, is health hazards.
And so those then drive. A number of requirements about the building. So specific to your question on explosion venting, um, when you were dealing with high, high, volatile, and high energy release materials that could result in a Def Def ration. So that would be a high energy flash fire. Um, you wanna make sure that the pressure that's built up in the building or that rum is able to be relieved to a safe location.
And so, for example, if you have very volatile flammable liquids, so like class one, a or one B handled above their boiling point, you can easily in a release, fill a rum completely full of flammable vapor. Right. That could ignite. And when it does, it's gonna release a lot of energy. And so you need to make sure that the walls of the building are able to withstand that pressure, which oftentimes means we put some explosion venting there.
Right? Cause the whole goal is for a life safety application, buildings that collapse obviously are gonna present a huge life safety risk to the occupants. And so you're trying to reduce the pressure, the lateral pressure on the walls by doing explosion venting, um, and the same thing with certain flammable gases, you would end up having to do, uh, some, uh, you would have to do some, uh, explosion venting.
Uh, and there's a section of the international fire code section 9 1 1, which is just interesting because that's our emergency telephone number, but you, it gives you kind of what hazards require you to ration vent or do other types of protections. I'll just also, and again, not that we go down too deep today, but recognize.
Deflations can be vented debt nations cannot. Right. And debt nations just mean that the, the flame speed is faster than the speed of sound. You just aren't able to vent those. You have to do other strategies which could be distancing or building your building to be able to withstand certain aspects of that.
So, you know, as, as, as we talk about detonation energy, that's really a whole different, uh, type of protective strategy. That's a good note. I like that. Yeah. Dealing with some facilities with munitions recently. And so getting into some of those detonation hazards. So I appreciate that qualifier. Um, so I wanted to, I know you spoke a little bit earlier about combustible dust and as another, um, fairly common, but trickier hazard.
That I've come in contact with in my design career. And I just wanted to hear a little bit about, um, how do you, uh, even begin to address this hazard? Um, you know, owner comes to you and says, oh, I want to have, uh, metal grinding with the dust collectors. You know, how do you begin to address this hazard as a safety professional?
I think most people have read a lot of articles recently in the trade press about NFPA 6 52, which is the fundamentals of combustible dust, which really. Provides the overarching framework for the handling of the hazards of combustible dust. And it is the, the document that establishes requirements for conducting what are called dust hazard lyses, which I'm gonna oversimplify it, but basically it's test your materials or use other ways to determine if you have combustible dust.
And if you do look at the hazards, both inside equipment and the fugitives outside equipment, to make sure that you have adequate controls, if you don't have adequate controls, add controls or add protections to do that, the way we basically say is for both the fugitives and for the equipment establish one or more base of safety, if you can't establish a basis of safety to prevent the event from happening, make sure that you have adequate, um, control measures.
Like explosion, uh, venting of equipment, um, isolation or suppression, or a combination of those. Um, you know, in the example that you used about metal, uh, one of the things that NFPA has done is 6 52 is kind of the general document. They have additional. Allowances and requirements in what they call the commodity and industry specific standards.
And so while 6 52 N FPA 6 52 is the, the I'll call it the overarching document. When you're dealing with metals NFPA 44 has certain requirements, particularly for high energy, reactive metals, like. As, as an example, uh, NFP 61, uh, deals with, um, the agricultural, uh, community, um, N FPA 6 54 is more of chemical industry dusts or, or, or areas.
And then there is also NFPA 6 64, which deals with, um, with woodworking in and, and wood dust. So those really kind of provide that, that overarching requirement. I'll just kind of add, you know, and, and again, there's a lot of things going on with the impending deadline in NFPA 6 50, 2 of September 7th, 2020 to do your first dust hazard Lyes and that's important, right.
That people stay focused on that area. But more importantly, as you look at the international fire code, there are two things I always wanna remind people about combustible dust. The first is that since 2012, If you handle combustible dust and any configuration or method that can result in a fire or a Def hazard, um, you by default are a group H occupancy.
And that for many people, even though that requirement's been there since 2012, that's, that's, uh, that's a new piece of information. Um, and I would just encourage you to go to chapter 50 of the international fire code to look at that since 2018 in chapter 22 of the international fire code, um, it there, the, the conduction of a dust hazard analysis or DHA is actually required.
So by regulation, it is the first regulation that requires you to do a DHA. So once your jurisdiction adopts the 2018 edition of the international fire code, if there are no other amendments that change this, you, um, you end up having to do a DHA within three years of the adoption, um, that are there. So those are requirements that are.
I'll call 'em. They don't conflict with NFP 6 52, but they basically bring more teeth, uh, on a regulatory basis to the application of NFP 6 52. Uh, yeah, that's great. I enjoyed your response. I think it illustrates the complex nature of, you know, if you've never dealt with 6 52 or any of the other, um, NFPAs addressing the combustible dust hazard.
It can be quite a, quite a lot to find out which NFPAs apply and how you determine if the scope of the N F B document applies to your particular hazard scenario. So I appreciate that response. Great. So I wanted to speak about, um, a little bit about, uh, the tragedy that recently happened in Beirut. And I know there's been.
A huge buzz in the community about ammonium nitrate. I just wanted, if you had any thoughts on that. Mike. Oh, a absolutely. So, you know, let's, let's preface this by the fact that there's a lot of details that still have to come forth and, and, you know, while I think there are some things that are very obvious as we look at this, I am sure some of the details may change the view exactly.
Of the scenario and how it played out. but the, and I'm gonna call it frustrating part about this is ammonium. Nitrate has been involved in large loss incidents for more than a hundred years. And the basic premise, uh, and causal factors that are involved have not changed. Right? So basically ammonium nitrate is classified as an oxidizer, which means when exposed to fire, it will accentuate the fire by essentially giving it more.
And I'm using in quotation marks, oxygen, uh, but more oxidant so that, uh, you can enhance combustion. So ammonium nitrate, normally as a solid, which is oftentimes in pearls or flakes, as it's stored is all by itself is fairly stable. And you don't worry about. Is when you expose it to heat or contamination and store it in large quantities, that piles that are put together, um, and a fire occurs.
Um, the, the, the results are cataclysmic, right? It's it's, the outcome is literally predictable, right? And, and a person, uh, that I mentor with a gentleman by the name of Gordon. Graham always says, if it's predictable, it's preventable, right. You can, you can put controls in place and. All of the things that we need to be working on are how do you isolate the material?
So contamination cannot occur. And if there's going to be a fire, ammonium, nitrate is generally not gonna be the start of the fire. It will be some other combustible commodity. How do we end up. Uh, putting that fire out or controlling or preventing the fire from occurring. You know, it appears in Beirut that this warehouse where the ammonium nitrate was also had other commodities, particularly fireworks and probably some other combustible commodities.
And so the fire likely started. By an area that, you know, something that was not ammonium nitrate, but then once the fire got going, um, and you look at these historical events that have occurred usually within 30 minutes to 90 minutes, uh, with the fire that, uh, continues to burn you, you get a ferocious fire because of the presence of an oxidizer and you progress to detonation.
And these detonations are horrific, um, in the us, you know, our most horrific, um, ammonium nitrate, uh, detonation was back in 1947 in Texas city. Um, and that was a, a boat, a ship that had ammonium nitrate fertilizer that caught fire, uh, in the, in the, uh, Texas city ship channel. Uh, and their, I think like about 580 people were killed, including the entire Texas city fire department.
So these types of outcomes, um, are predictable. And, and so, you know, obviously there's a focus on our building and fire code in how we manage those, right. And how we control the hazard. And in making sure from an emergency response standpoint, we, um, we address these hazards and know that generally speaking, if fires get into these stores, um, it it's, it's something that we have to isolate and evacuate quickly.
This brings back memories, for example, of, you know, BLE in, um, Liquified petroleum gas, right? In the 1970s, the fire service went through a large epiphany about, you know, fires, exposing propane tanks are ones that if you can't immediately get water on, you have to evacuate else. There's gonna be OBL and people are gonna be killed.
Uh, and, and property is gonna be damaged. I'll just say one other quick thing here. Um, and we can explore a bit further if you'd like, you know, in the us, we, we recently, and I mean, in 2013 in west Texas at an agricultural supply house, uh, we, we ended up having, um, a fire and in about 30 minutes, uh, a detonation that killed, I believe 15 people and the us chemical safety board has done a comprehensive, uh, investigation that you can go to the chemical safety board website, uh, and bring that, uh, bring that investigation down and look at it for free.
Um, I would encourage you to read that the, the frustrating part about that is there were two items in that investigation that were highlighted and one was, um, what appears to be an oversight in the us process. Safety management regulation was to not include ammonium nitrate as one of the chemicals covered by the standard that has not yet been resolved.
And then the other one is that OSHA 19 10, 1 0 9, which is titled. Explosives and, uh, blasting agents, right? So people kind of immediately go, well, I'm using ammonium nitrate. Uh, I'm not an explosive or a blasting agent, but that has application for the storage of ammonium nitrate paragraph. I, of that standard has requirements.
And so, you know, I don't think necessarily that there's gonna be a lot of new requirements. The science is pretty battle tested. I think it's our application of, of this science and our awareness of the hazard that has to change. Interesting. Interesting. Yeah. I appreciate those extra resources. I will add them in the show notes so people can go and read more if they so choose.
But yeah, I appreciate that. It's a little bit baffling to me to think about, um, an oxidizer as. Something with a detonation hazard. Uh, just for, I guess, just from the fundamental idea of, you know, the Oxid oxidizer speeds, the, uh, reaction of combustion, I guess, but I guess it makes sense. Well, so, so, and again, I, I promise you not to go too far down to rabbit hole, but what really starts to come into play here is it's the contamination.
So for example, once you get a fire and, and the, the Texas city chemical safety board report goes through this in some detail, a lot of fires generate sot. The sot is car it's comprised of carbon based materials. Those can also serve as the source of the contamination. Right? So if you think about, for example, how people would say, um, blow up stumps in the agricultural community, they take, uh, fertilizer grade, ammonium nitrate, they add some diesel fuel, and then they basically have something like a, you know, a small stick of dynamite or something to kick that energy off.
It's that contamination, right? Intentional in that case of diesel fuel, that really provides the fuel. You have the oxidizer and you have the ignition source that ends up in the detonation. One of the things in our current hazard communication, uh, and classification scheme. So these physical hazards and health hazards do not deal very neatly with how do materials when they're contam.
React. Um, and I would just draw people's attention. Uh, the chem safety board is investigating an event right now. Uh, they don't have the report complete, uh, but last year in 2019, there was a terrible explosion at the AB specialty silicons plant in, uh, while Kegan, Illinois. And it appears that a material that nominally would be classified as a combustible liquid got contaminated.
And that contamination is what created the instability and our model codes and standards don't have a real clean way to handle that. So I think that, you know, as we talk about what do we need to do to be successful in the future, looking at how, you know, I'll call it the undesired or unanticipated, um, routes occur.
Um, we have to really try to make sure that we. Even more accurate ways to make that classification. Very nice. Very nice. I appreciate that. Yeah, the, I think the contamination part of it is, is definitely what I didn't understand or fully grasped. So I appreciate that. Well, I just wanted to, uh, put a nice, uh, cap on our interview with some professional development topics, since it sounds like you have, uh, such a good, uh, pulse on what the, uh, industry is doing and professional development and, um, career progression.
So I just would, uh, be kicking myself if I didn't get a chance to ask you about, um, how as a professional, we should be, um, looking forward or looking for new ways to get a leg up. Um, but anyways, I just wanted to start with, um, kind of, what do you see as a, a trend in the industry right now? Okay. So we've already talked about one, right?
And that's professional credentialing. You know, if I go back to the 1980s, when I came out of undergrad, there was not a lot of discussion about professional credentialing today. I think in our community, it's becoming more and more relevant and more and more impactful. And we've explored that the other area that I see as emerging, and there are a lot of reasons for this.
Is, we are moving from our historic view of what I would call prescriptive requirements and prescriptive codes and standards to more risk based and performance oriented standards. Right? So there are drivers where, you know, economics of, I don't wanna put all the protections in place. I don't want to inspect things as frequently.
And if the hazard can be justified that you don't need to do that, right. There's resource and, and financial benefit for that. But you have to be careful that these risk AEs that you do are not just mathematical exercises to justify an outcome. They have to really be pure and ethical to, to make sure that the hazard and risks are accurately classified.
Right? So the opportunity is that I think for many of us, um, we can become more, um, more enriched in the ability to do operational risk management. Um, and really unlock new potential here. Right? Which opens up a whole new way of study. This is something our colleagues in Europe have been doing for 30 years.
Right. And so one of the big debates on a global stage is the European regulatory environment. And the us regulatory environment are very different. So in, in the us, right, we have these prescriptive codes. It's a menu. If you have this, make sure you do this, this, this, this, and you're good. So the E the, the good part of that it's right.
Pretty straightforward. What the requirements are. The problem is in many cases, the requirements, either over overstate, uh, the requirement of what really needs to be done, um, and that can cost you time and money, or sometimes they completely miss the requirement. Right. And we kind of go, I just need to check the box in the European construct.
The owner of the hazard has an obligation to prove its safety. And oftentimes there's not a lot of other regulatory requirements. And so it's, you have to really assess all hazard channels and make sure that you have really good, um, really good controls in place. And so it's a whole different way of liability and regulation.
Um, and, and, you know, again, that will not get resolved immediately, but many of the us standards are starting to allow this, this risk or performance based lyses. And for me, that's exciting. Um, and I think those folks who really embrace that technology and that science are gonna be, uh, a bit ahead in the field.
That's a really interesting note about performance based design, uh, talked to several professionals recently who, uh, have, uh, more knowledge about the subject and yeah, I find it fascinating as. And just the ability to have that as a tool in your engineering toolbox in order to, um, problem solve more effectively and provide solutions for building owners that are a little bit more out of the box, if you will.
So I think that's a great point. Yeah, just, and, and maybe one closing comment on that piece, um, you know, with the internet today, the, the ability to search for incident history and incident data, right? I mean, if I go back 30 years ago, right. You have to kind of do library searches and it was very difficult.
So when you do a performance or risk based design, right there, there's an obligation that the basis of what you're choosing, um, has been, you know, I'll call it battle, test it, uh, with some of the different incidents that are out there and right, the older, the incident, uh, the, the incident record may not be quite complete.
Um, but it is incumbent upon us as professionals to make sure that we're looking at the incident record, uh, to make sure that what we're proposing is not outlandish. Right. And that comes into this professional competence and ethics part of this so that you don't just do a mathematical exercise. So, you know, the, the internet has really enabled that kind of, uh, data searching that we never have really had before.
Yeah, that's great. I appreciate that. Um, uh, Mike, I just wanted to end with, um, if there are any resources in which you would recommend to professionals that wanna know more about hazardous materials or life safety or, uh, process safety or loss prevention, I know that's a tall order, but yeah, I just wanted to get your sense of what resources you find that are quality in, uh, the pursuit of knowledge on these subjects.
so, you know, oftentimes I'll go back to what I would call Sentinel, uh, resources. So, you know, maybe as a, a couple of quick tips, I mean, some of these are simple, but sometimes people overlook them is, you know, N FPA has a, a large number of standards that deal in this area. And you. View for free and see all the changes that are being proposed by simply going to www.nfpa.org/the standard number.
So for example, the hazards chemical code NFPA 400. If you do that, you can bring that information. And without having to buy anything, you can look at proposed changes. You can look at the standard in, in the other areas that are there. For a small fee, you could also buy handbooks that NFA produces, which are more application tips that take a bit of a deeper dive of how people apply there.
And so those are what I would call consensus oriented. So they kind of represent the, the best view of the, the consensus community on these. And they are very, very hopeful the other place, um, that, and again, so that's kind of a us view as maybe a, a simple and low cost option, um, to give you a bit of the, the, um, European view.
I find that the United Kingdom health and safety executive. Also known as HSE has a number of resources. First of all, print it in English. Number two, they're free, um, that you can look at on both the risk analysis and on fundamentals of, uh, of chemical hazard. They also, uh, happen to have a lot of resources on composite I B C fire safety, and you can just search their website.
So the UK health and safety executive think of them as the UK's OSHA. Uh, it's just that they have a very comprehensive set of resources, um, that can help owners of the hazard, uh, properly control those. So. If, if you walk away with those two things, I, I, I think they give you great. Um, a great insight I mentioned before, and I'll, I'll close this question simply was saying that, you know, the United States chemical safety board for 20 years has been investigating events and published thorough reports.
And in most cases generate kind of a 10 to 20 minute, uh, video, uh, vignette that overlooks or oversees the event and the recommendations of the investigation. Those are also great repositories of historic knowledge. And, uh, I, I think for especially educating employees who might be working with similar hazards, again, another free resource that can be very impactful.
That's a great point. I love the tip about the, the European resources. Those are some I'm not as aware of. Yeah. And, uh, yeah, I had forgot about the, the videos from the CSB. Uh, I'd watched some of those in, in college, in my, uh, occupational safety classes. So, yeah, those are, I need to try and find some of those.
It'd be great if they had those on YouTube or something like that. Well, and, and, and they do, right. So you, you can go there, you know, one other, just as we're talking here, I I'd be remiss, particularly for those in your audience who are. In college right now. Um, the American Institute of chemical engineers produces a chemical hazard series called S modules, which are really trying to integrate these concepts of chemical process safety into the undergraduate chemistry and chemical engineering area, and undergraduate students get access for free.
So again, as, as you can kind of see here, I try to really be economic in my view of where I point people. Um, but if you just look, um, uh, sash S a C E, um, and, and search that with American Institute chemical engineers, and you're an undergrad student, uh, you can get access to 'em for free. If you're not an undergraduate student, it, they have a small fee, uh, attached with them.
Um, but that, that is kind of another area. And, and I'm sorry, as we're talking here, one other idea that that has come here. Uh, the American Institute of chemical engineers also publish a monthly one page bulletin called the beacon. And the beacon reviews in a very simple. One aspect of chemical process safety each month and they publish it in nearly 40 different languages.
And what I have found very effective about that is you can put it in a control room on a lunch, uh, you know, on a bulletin board, in a lunchroom, in the language that's commonly used, wherever you're gonna go, uh, internationally. And it's one, you can go right onto a I C H E, and subscribe so that you get the email link every month it's free.
Um, and it's quite effective, right? So for example, management of change is featured frequently in that forum, but other types of scenarios to help build your, your mental hard drive with scenarios that you should be looking at. So it's kind of a neat, quick way to kind of, uh, refresh your memory about how chemistry can act in unanticipated fashions.
That's a great. That's a great tip. I appreciate that. I haven't heard of that one either, but, um, Mike, I just wanted to thank you so much for coming on the show and I want to try to be mindful of your time and yeah, I just wanna say I really enjoyed it and thanks again, sir. Great. And, and, and again, right, if people want to advance any of these topics, you know, I'm on LinkedIn, feel free to reach out to me.
This is an area of mission of developing our profession with chemistry, uh, that I, I have a lot of personal passion about. So, you know, anybody who has a, a question or wants to explore these topics and further, uh, detail, I'm more than glad to do so. Great. I can add some links to, um, your work and different articles that they can read from you as that's how I found you.
And I appreciate, uh, all the work that you've done. So I'll add some links so people can find you and give you a shout out if they wanna learn more. Excellent. No, and, and thank you to anybody. Who's, uh, sat through this, cuz again, chemistry can be viewed as a very dry topic. I just think it has a lot of relevance to exposures that we have and that we can successfully control.
Definitely. I agree. A hundred percent. Thanks for listening everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business. The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes and standards interpretation.
Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life safety. Thanks again. And we'll see you next time.