Codes & Standards, Fire Prevention & Protection, Hazmat

NFPA 470: The ‘New’ Old Hazardous Materials Response Standards

By Rick Edinger

In April 2019, I published an article entitled “What Ever Happened to NFPA 472?” In that piece I examined the addition of two new National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) documents related to hazardous materials response, their relationship to each other and the existing hazmat standards, and the effects on the hazmat response community. The title of the article spoke to some confusion among hazmat responders about the need for several seemingly related standards and confirmed that the legacy hazmat standards, NFPA 472 and 473, would continue to be maintained.

During that same time period, the NFPA Standards Council approved a plan to consolidate 114 current emergency response and response safety (ERRS) standards and related documents into 38 overarching emergency response standards. Based on document revision cycles for the affected standards, the NFPA ERRS standards consolidation plan will occur over several years. The end result will be fewer documents for emergency responders to track, comply with, and maintain.

As noted in the April 2019 article, the NFPA Hazardous Materials/WMD  Response Technical Committee maintained four documents (NFPA 472, 473, 475, and 1072) and assists with the preparation of the NFPA Hazardous Materials Handbook. As these standards are all classified as emergency response documents, the committee’s documents became part of the ERRS consolidation process.

The consolidation process for affected documents began in the spring of 2019. As a result of this effort, a “new” hazmat standards document was born: NFPA 470: Hazardous Materials Standards for Responders. NFPA 470 was released in early October 2019 and contains all the current content of NFPA 472, NFPA 473, and NFPA 1072 in one standard. The fourth document maintained by the committee, NFPA 475, is a recommended practice for the management of hazardous materials response programs. The committee has elected to maintain NFPA 475 separately and will do so within the same revision cycle as NFPA 470.

From this point forward, the committee will maintain one standards document that contains the content of the original standards that existed prior to June 2019. Within this single document will be the content of NFPA 472: Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents, which is an “organization-based” document and is written as a risk-based response text that identifies minimum core performance competencies for Awareness, Operations and Technician level hazardous materials responders. NFPA 472 language enhances the basic core hazmat competencies with mission-specific competencies that outline defined knowledge, skills, and abilities that a responder should have for a given hazard, container type, or needed tactical skill.

Also within the scope of the “new” NFPA 470, the committee will continue to maintain and develop new content for NFPA 473, Standard for Competencies for EMS Personnel Responding to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents. Likewise for NFPA 1072, Standard for Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Emergency Response Personnel Professional Qualifications, which is classified as an individual-based document. NFPA 1072 is written as a Pro Qual standard outlining the minimum job performance requirements (JPRs) for Awareness, Operations and Technician level responders and includes Operations – Mission Specific and Hazmat Incident Commander criteria. Those organizations that have adopted NFPA 1072 as their certifying/accreditation standard should consult with their professional qualifications accrediting agency (ex. IFSAC or Pro Board) for guidance on how to adopt the new standard.

Importantly, because of the ERRS consolidation process, the period to provide public input for the next revision cycle for these documents was suspended for a brief period while the document consolidation editing was occurring and has now reopened under NFPA 470. However, the input period closes on November 15. Feedback and suggestions from the hazmat response community are vital to the committee’s work. All public inputs are considered and will guide the NFPA Hazardous Materials/WMD Response Technical Committee for the next revision of NFPA 470, which is scheduled to be published in Fall 2021. It is important that people who seek to propose changes or additions to the content of NFPA 470 get those submissions in prior to November 15, 2019.

Regardless of the format or style of the NFPA hazardous materials response documents, the NFPA Hazardous Materials/WMD Response Technical Committee will continue to strive to produce the most up to date and exacting standards language to guide the training and responder competencies for safe and effective response to hazmat incidents.

Rick Edinger serves as chairman of the NFPA Hazardous Materials/WMD Response Technical Committee. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.