2017 NFPA meeting is vital

Thank you to everyone who attended the 2017 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Conference & Expo.

Why was attendance highly recommend this year in particular? All of the NFPA technical meetings are important, because at these meetings code changes are brought up for a vote. The 2017 meeting is especially important because several years ago a change was made to move NFPA 99 and NFPA 101 into the same code development cycle. This year we have the opportunity to review these important health care documents, and changes made in 2017 will be incorporated into the 2018 editions.

Focusing on the 2018 edition can seem difficult when hospitals are currently using the 2000 and 1999 editions of these documents and are just now discussing the move to the 2012 edition. However, we must treat every document as if it is going to be adopted. NFPA 99 is often incorporated into the International Building Code, so every edition is important and could pose significant hardships on your facility should an unnecessary or overly burdensome requirement slip through.

ASHE has been working hard to align all of the various codes and standards to have less overlap, fewer gaps, and fewer code conflicts. This work doesn’t happen over one code development cycle, however. Aligning the codes is a long process that occurs over several editions. Each code cycle is a chance for negotiations with code development committees to draw the boundary lines between codes to ensure that the codes don’t overlap, which is where most of the conflicts occur. To maintain these boundaries, continuous involvement in the development of the codes and standards is necessary.

Provisions that are entered into the codes tend to remain in the codes for some time. When the time comes to adopt new editions of the code, removing provisions can be difficult even if they don’t make much sense, because they are already written into the codes.

For these reasons, ASHE fights for unified codes and standards based on science in every edition of codes that are developed. Even though the adoption of the 2005 edition was in question, ASHE still opposed several issues; unfortunately, ASHE failed to prevent the provisions from being added because of insufficient membership support at the hearings. More recently, ASHE tried to align the Life Safety Code® with the International Building Code, which just revised its long-standing smoke compartment size limitation from 22,500 square feet to 40,000 square feet. ASHE advocacy successfully lobbied to have this changed in the Life Safety Code. Despite a massive campaign by ASHE to call members into action and attend the 2014 Technical Meeting, not enough hospital members attended the meeting and voted, and an appeal was upheld to revert the code back to 22,500 square feet.

ASHE is now learning of issues and concerns with the 2012 edition of NFPA 99 that resulted from  the meetings held in 2004. ASHE also advocated very hard at those meetings but did not have the membership to support the final floor actions. One of these provisions dealt with wet locations. ASHE testified against the new provision to make all operating rooms (new and existing) wet locations unless a risk assessment is performed. Unfortunately we lost that vote, as only a handful of people were there to testify and, more importantly, vote.

The investment of $1,500 to $3,000 it would have taken for you to attend the Technical Meeting could have prevented the $20,000+ per operating room now required for hospitals to install isolated power systems. Granted, in some locations such systems are appropriate for the safety of the staff and patients, but we believe that assessment has already been done, and has been in place for some time at hospitals. This change in requirements now allows authorities to question the assessment protocols and documentation used by facilities and requires those facilities to retroactively install such systems even if no hazard or risk has been identified in the operating room.