Understanding the Relationship Between Regulatory Associations and Third-Party Certifications
OSHA and the NFPA develop regulations to keep employees safe and limit the risk of fire. Both organizations have created a set of requirements for flammable storage cabinets and containers.
But, OSHA and NFPA do not verify each manufacturer meets their specifications. Instead, they rely on external certification bodies to validate that safety products perform to relevant codes.
Independent Safety Certifications
Independent bodies provide third-party certification for safety products. They ensure the equipment meets OSHA and NFPA standards. Many certification organizations are recognized globally for their quality and standard. Testing processes vary per organization. Some of the relevant independent certification agencies for flammable safety products are:
- FM Global - Formerly known as Factory Mutual, FM Global provides FM Approval® product testing services to ensure products adhere to design and construction requirements.
- UL - Founded as Underwriters Laboratories in 1894, UL LLC is a global safety certification company approved to perform safety testing by OSHA.
- TÜV/TÜV SÜD – TÜV, which translates “Technical Inspection Association” in English, is a German-based certifying authority that tests, inspects and validates the safety features of products.
- MPA Dresden (GS) – Also based in Germany, MPA Dresden provides in certifying safety products and equipment that deal with fire protection and control.
OSHA recognizes certain private-sector testing organizations as part of its Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) Program. Currently, the list includes only 19 testing agencies that have the necessary qualifications to perform safety testing on products that must meet certain U.S. standards.
How Do You Know Your Flammable Safety Cabinets Will Work?
The 10-minute fire test is a well-known performance test for flammable safety cabinets, as defined in NFPA 251 – Standard Methods of Fire Resistance of Building Construction and Materials. The procedure subjects a safety cabinet to an external fire to prove its effectiveness. The 10-minute duration allows time for personnel to evacuate the area.
To pass the test, the internal temperature of the cabinet cannot reach more than 325 F (163 C). This is based on the standard time-temperature curve (see NFPA 251-1969). Temperatures from the fire outside the cabinet can reach up to 1600 F (871 C) during the time frame.
The internal temperature limit is based on the auto ignition temperatures of flammable liquids. More than 99 percent of all flammable liquids are still below their auto-ignition temperature at 325 F. In other words, this independent certification test represents a worst-case scenario.
How Cabinet Modifications Affect Independent Certification Approval
Any modifications made to a safety cabinet may affect its performance. They also render it non-compliant with OSHA and NFPA regulations. In the event of an accident, your insurance company could even refuse to pay any losses.
A simple modification like drilling a hole into a safety cabinet wall compromises its performance. Air escapes through the hole when heated, causing the cabinet to fail the 10-minute fire test. It will also void its third party or independent certification.
Remember, workplace safety is the most important reason for using a safety cabinet. Properly functioning flammable storage cabinets allow time to evacuate during a fire. Don’t put employees at risk by making unnecessary modifications.
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