Office of Environmental Health & Safety

2008 NYC Fire Code and Laboratories

The 2008 New York City Fire Code was adopted on July 1, 2008. The new Fire Code includes updated and expanded regulations covering non-production laboratories (i.e. academic (including K-12), research, and hospital labs) within NYC. The 2008 Fire Code incorporates many elements of the National Fire Prevention Association’s Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals (NFPA 45, pdf). The new laboratory Fire Code Regulations can be accessed here (pdf).

How does the new Fire Code apply to pre-existing and newly- constructed laboratories? The new Fire Code includes regulations for laboratory design, construction, and installation as well as operational and maintenance aspects of laboratory use. All pre-existing labs that were issued annual permits by the FDNY under the old code are “grandfathered”, and still subject to the earlier design, construction, and installation requirements. Only newly constructed laboratories (in existing or new buildings) are subject to the new construction requirements. The laboratories of Science Hall are subject to the 2008 Fire Code, while the laboratories of Davis are subject to the old Fire Code.

However, requirements of the 2008 Fire Code related to laboratory Operational and Maintenance are universal. Operational requirements refer to the use, operation and supervision of equipment and premises (e.g. permits, Certificate of Fitness, recordkeeping, signage, prohibitions against smoking). Maintenance requirements refer to care of equipment and premises in safe and proper working order and condition (e.g. housekeeping; servicing, testing and inspection of safety equipment; maintaining clear means of egress).

How are pre-existing laboratories and new labs differentiated? It is possible for pre-existing laboratories and new laboratories to be housed in the same building. The annual laboratory permit issued by FDNY will indicate the Laboratory Type for pre-existing labs, or the Laboratory Size (in square feet) and Fire Rating for new labs. It is important to understand the difference because pre-existing laboratories and new laboratories have different storage limits for different chemical hazard classes, particularly flammable liquids.

The flammable storage limit of a pre-existing lab is based solely upon the fire rating of its enclosure (i.e. fire rating of floor, walls, doors, expressed in hours) and whether automatic fire suppression (i.e. sprinklers) is installed in the lab. Laboratory size and the presence of flammable storage cabinets are irrelevant to the amount of flammable liquids allowed in a lab unit. Flammable storage limits for pre-existing labs range between 15 and 30 gallons, depending on Lab Type). Storage limits for oxidizing materials, flammable solids, and unstable/reactive materials are also specified in the old Fire Code.

Flammable storage limits for new labs are determined by the fire rating of the lab (one or two hours), sprinklers (now required in all new construction), the use of flammable storage cabinets, and the size of the lab. The storage density of flammable liquids (in terms of gallons per square foot of lab space) is taken into account when determining flammable liquid storage limit for a specific lab.

The new Fire Code includes storage limits for oxidizing materials, flammable solids, and unstable/reactive materials, as well as specific storage limits for additional chemical hazard classes (Water Reactive, Pyrophoric, Highly Toxic Material, Toxic Material, Corrosive, Organic Peroxides compressed gases).

C14 Certificate of Fitness holders are responsible for knowing FDNY laboratory regulations, their applicability, and monitoring FDNY compliance within their own labs. FDNY requires that at least one C14 C of F holder from each specific research group, during all hours of laboratory operation. However, the nature of research usually requires that the laboratory be in operation beyond “regular” business hours. It is the policy of Lehman College and CUNY that all lab members (students, faculty, and staff) obtain the C of F in order to have adequate C of F coverage. Please contact the EH&S Office to obtain the C of F.


Last modified: Jul 14, 2014

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