Up To Code

In some cases, preventing something as devastating as a fire can be as simple as ensuring your shop is up to code. Safety codes are designed to minimize the risk and effects of fire by establishing criteria for building, processing, design, service, and installation in the United States. Although following these codes may not be required in your personal shop, adhering to the guidelines listed could prevent or reduce damage in the event of an incident.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is responsible for more than 300 fire safety codes and safety standards, which can be accessed at www.nfpa.org. Although most of these codes are designed for commercial or industrial environments, proper storage and handling procedures for fuel, chemicals, and new and used petroleum products are covered, which can be easily applied to any small private or home shop. To get more information on what the NFPA has available, we spoke to Ken Willette, Division Manager for the Public Fire Protection Division.

"The NFPA started in the Boston area in 1897," explains Willette. "It was a consortium of insurance companies that came together and developed standards that would allow them to have improved fire protection systems in buildings. Over the years it has evolved to where areas of fire safety, electrical safety, building safety, storage of chemicals and hazardous material, and responder safety became part of the library of documents the NFPA produces."

We wanted to get some detailed information, so we spoke with Fire Service Specialist, Ryan Depew, who explained more about some of the NFPA's codes and standards that specifically relate to shops and service centers.

"Repair garages (and race shops) will find beneficial [safety] information within the NFPA standards," explains Depew. "For people that are running private shops, whether it be at home or not, the information may be a little outside of the scope, because they aren't running a business, but there is certainly useful information to look at and utilize from a safety standpoint. Just to break it down, we have the National Fire Code--NFPA-1. That's going to cover all of the different occupancies, including garages. We have a lot of information on hazardous materials storage, and proper storage for different types of chemicals."

From the handling and storage of chemicals and hazardous materials commonly found in race shops, to proper disposal of used oil and oily rags, to welding and cutting safety, the NFPA has codes and standards that can help add a higher level of safety to any shop.

(Editor's note: The codes and standards published by the National Fire Prevention Association [NFPA] are designed for commercial, industrial, and manufacturing facilities. Although the information in these codes may not be required in your shop, the information can offer many safety and fire prevention tips that can minimize the risk of fire.)

Coverage Is Key

Take a good look around your shop and start to add up all the little things you've had to buy over the years. We'd bet that before long you'd have an unbelievably long--and expensive--list of tools, equipment, spare parts, memorabilia, and other racing "junk" that would be difficult to replace.

Kimberly Sheara is a Liability Adjuster for the top commercial insurance company in the U.S., and is a good friend of the magazine. We got in touch with her about best practices when it comes to insuring your shop.

"You need to be very specific to ensure you have the correct amount of coverage," explains Sheara. "You need to take stock of what you have--equipment, tools, materials, essentially everything in the shop, then go see an agent and explain what you have and what you want covered. Don't do it on the Internet or over the phone, as the general policies aren't going to cover high-dollar items like race cars. A reputable and experienced agent who's written policies for shops before will get you the correct policy and all of the correct endorsements."

Sheara also informed us that not everything in your shop can be covered under one policy. "Anything that can have its own policy will not be covered. For example, a boat, a car, or an ATV or golf cart should have its own policy, and in most cases, will not be covered."

NFPA Codes

With more than 300 codes and standards, the NFPA has just about everything covered. Below are a few codes that directly relate to day-to-day operation in a privately owned or back yard race shop.

NFPA 1--The National Fire code

NFPA 13--Standard for installation of sprinkler systems

NFPA 20--Standard for the installation of stationary pumps for fire protection

NFPA 30--Flammable and Combustible Liquid code

NFPA 30A--Code for motor fuel dispensing facilities

NFPA 30B--Code for manufacturing and storage of aerosol products

NFPA 51B--Standard for fire prevention during welding, cutting, and other hot work

Beyond these, the NFPA has many more codes and standards that would apply to a race shop. Visit www.NFPA.org for more information.

Wrapping It Up

Is it likely that your shop in going to burn to the ground? Probably not, but the thought of losing your entire racing operation should be scary enough to make you take a good look at how safe your shop is. We know it isn't realistic to outfit your shop according to the codes and standards of the NFPA, but if you read a few relevant codes and a take a few fire prevention and safety techniques, that could be the difference between loosing your shop or not. And being that many shops are in garages attached to our houses, a safer shop means a safer house, and in many cases, a safer family!

National Fire Protection Association