Some business owners find that their insurers more aggressively enforces fire safety than their local code officials. Factory Mutual has its own standards that can be more restrictive than the fire codes. For example, the FM Global “loss prevention data sheet” for organic peroxides limits the permitted storage quantities more stringently than the NFPA code.

People sometimes forget that insurance is a product just like gelcoat or fibers. The cost and “performance” or risk recommendations of a fire insurance policy varies by supplier and purchase agreement. Failure to follow or resolve risk recommendations may have adverse impact on premiums or coverage. Business owners may want to consider proactive engagement with their insurance carriers and conduct periodic risk surveys.

The existence of two separate organizations promulgating fire codes – NFPA and ICC – is also a source of confusion. With occasional exceptions, local code officials enforce ICC codes, while insurance carriers refer to NFPA codes. Even when the ICC code is the official code being enforced, the applicable NFPA code can provide requirements that better fit operations and hazards at a location.

It’s often effective for a business owner to work with the AHJ to evaluate the applicability of an NFPA code when the requirements of the ICC code are too costly or restrictive given the hazards. If the situation is complex, there are code consultants engaged with ACMA and its members that can be retained to help guide an owner.

Finally, we need to consider the role of fire codes in meeting OSHA fire safety requirements. When OSHA was established, Congress allowed the agency to codify the NFPA codes that were in place at that time. While the NFPA codes have since been updated, many of the OSHA regulations remain frozen in the 1970s.

The OSHA regulation for fire safety for spraying of flammable liquid (29 CFR 1910.107), applicable to resin and gelcoat spray operations, is based on what was the NFPA code for spray painting, a more hazardous operation. One of the subsequent updates to the NFPA standard for spray application of flammable liquid (NFPA 33) was to add requirements specifically for resin and gelcoat spray. For example, the updated NFPA code, unlike the original spray-painting code, does not restrict resin spray operations to spray booths but also allows them in spray areas, accommodating the fabrication of large composite products.

In recognition of the outdated nature of many of their regulations, OSHA does consider as de minimis (without penalty) the violation of an OSHA regulation if the applicable NFPA code is followed and if it provides an equal or greater level of protection. Per this policy, OSHA should issue only a de minimis violation for a composite resin spray operation not fully in compliance with 29 CFR 1910.107 if the facility is fully in compliance with NFPA 33.

In the summer Tech Talk column, I’ll tackle the intricacies of some specific fire codes applicable to composites manufacturing operations.

John Schweitzer is senior advisor to the president at ACMA. Email comments to

Disclaimer: Opinions, statements and technical information within the Tech Talk column are that of the authors. ACMA makes no warranty of any kinds, expressed or implied, with respect to information in the column, including fitness for a particular purpose. Persons using the information within the column assume all risk and liability for any losses, damages, claims or expenses resulting from such use.