Codes and Standards from the National Fire Protection Agency
The NFPA 101 document for Life Safety Codes is almost 1,000 pages long and is extremely comprehensive. While it can be hard to say there can ever be too much information on fire code and workplace safety, it’s hard to imagine anyone has the time to read all of that. In fact, the NFPA has released a few videos on how to navigate the document. That’s why we’ve put together this list of some of the most common life safety code violations of the Life Safety Code (aka LSC). However, it should be noted before we start that this list is not a matter of official law, but a list of general requirements and safety standards put forth by the NFPA.
So what are the most common violations of the LSC? Here are some of the top violations in order of how often citations are given for them by the fire protection association NFPA.
Sprinkler System Maintenance
This is the most frequently cited life safety code violation of any part of the LSC, and it can be a serious workplace hazard. There are comprehensive standards for how sprinkler systems must be installed and maintained in buildings in accordance with the NFPA 25. Violations most often occur from improper testing or infrequent maintenance.
Some of the problems involving testing come from a lack of proper documentation of services. It can also stem from an unqualified individual calibrating equipment. It might also be caused by an incorrect frequency of professional inspections.
Maintenance life safety code violations are typically caused by the parts of a company’s sprinkler system. Missing parts, a lack of replacements, and uncalibrated gauges are some of the most common hazards.
The second most common life safety code violation comes in the form of electrical wiring. Electrical wiring is covered under the NFPA 70 and the National Electrical Code. According to NFPA 70, the NEC “sets the foundation for electrical safety in residential, commercial, and industrial occupancies. Learn more about adoption efforts, adoption status, and the support of the Electrical Code Coalition, which works to increase focus and emphasis on electrical safety for persons and property through direct and full adoption, application and uniform enforcement of the latest edition of the NEC®”.
Almost all violations in regards to electrical wiring are related to things like power strips and extension cords being overloaded. Other common causes for violation are missing junction boxes, light switches, or covers for electrical outlets. Another usual suspect is an unlocked electrical service panel. If it’s accessible to the residents or workers in a building, it can pose an occupational safety and health hazard.
Hazardous Areas account for about 15% of all life safety code violation citations given by the NFPA to facilities. There is a wide array of things that can cause an area to be labeled as hazardous that can, unfortunately, lead to workplace injuries. Generally, these violations are because of rooms that are not kept tidy. Rooms in disarray, rooms with doors being propped open that should, in fact, be closed are causes for a life safety code violation.
Also, it should be remembered that hazardous area violations are largely dependent on what is actually in the room. Hazardous material needs to be given special consideration in how they are stored and disposed of. Also, it should be considered what this room sits between. In an emergency situation, hazardous areas that are not kept up to code can cause big problems for firefighters or law enforcement in an emergency situation.
Coming in closely behind hazardous areas is violations with corridor doors. While some offices might think they’re safe from violation by having objects that can easily be moved in corridor doors, they’re wrong. Objects left in doorways in corridors for longer than 30 minutes are in direct violation of the LSC.
Corridor doors exist to prevent smoke from traveling through a facility during a fire. Keeping fire and smoke quarantined should be the number one priority during an emergency situation. That’s why objects in the way that need to be moved, adjusted, or are just otherwise in the way are going to make this objective more difficult. The improper use of automatic or self-closing doors can also be a cause for a citation from the NFPA.
Generator Inspections and Testing
This violation comes in at just over 10% of citations given out by the NFPA. According to the LSC, “Maintenance and testing is critical to the continued reliability of your emergency generator and must be performed in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations”.
The NFPA advises that every facility should have two copies of instruction manuals for all generators on site. Generators should be tested weekly, and this inspection is often the reason for violating the code. Inspections may be done at incorrect intervals, or are not documented by the inspector. Any of these reasons can cause a building to get life safety code violations from the NFPA.
Penalties for Life Safety Code Violations
These are the five most common violations of the NFPA 101. So what happens when these violations do occur? Penalties begin with a written violation that is sent to the owner or proprietor of a property that is an infringement of the code. Ignoring or destroying these notifications is cause for another citation all it’s own.
But basically, building (owners) are fined for these life safety code violations. It begins with a $250.00 fine for each violation. If the violation is ignored, not dealt with, or the fine is not paid, there is an additional $100.00 fine for each violation per day which can add up to astronomical amounts depending on how many infractions a building has. Working with the AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) can sometimes feel unclear, so here’s one of our blogs with tips on how best to work with your AHJ.
Safety Leadership Through Building Codes
The NFPA 101 is a list that is more comprehensive than you may have realized, or even imagined. But following these rules and regulations are no laughing matter. Adhering to these life safety codes and standards are part of the responsibilities of owning a building or business. Keeping the residents or employees safe should be an owner’s number one priority, and that’s why the NFPA made this code.
These are the most common causes for life safety code violations, but they are far from the only ones, so take a look at the full PDF, or check out some of the NFPA’s YouTube channel for tips on adhering to these codes. Most of all, be sure to keep up with regular, complete inspections.