The Challenges of Regulatory Compliance with Fire and Gas Systems

By Warren Johnson, Senior Project Manager

Compliance - Fire Gas Systems

Regulatory compliance is a moving target. Codes and standards are under ongoing revision and the business landscape is constantly evolving. Fire and gas systems are protecting an organization’s most valuable investments and assets, yet they sit silently idle in the background often overlooked and untested. The maze of local, state, and federal codes and standards just add to the confusion and complications.


The Challenges

Many engineers working in the industrial manufacturing sector do not have first-hand working knowledge of the codes and standards that govern these critical life safety systems. Many of those that do are beginning to retire, leaving newer, less experienced staff in their place. There are 37 different pieces of equipment requiring OSHA’s Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory approval. It’s understandable that these less experienced employees do not have the background to navigate all the specific code requirements governing the equipment for which they are responsible.


These emerging engineers will need guidance. Even teams with extensive compliance experience know that these codes change and evolve, so they cannot rely solely on how things have been done in the past.


The Stakes

Creating a safer work environment protects both a company's personnel and its assets. Failing to do so can result in personnel injury, damage to the environment, and irreparable harm to a company's reputation. Poor code compliance may jeopardize insurance coverage or cause increased premiums. Code deficiencies found late in a capital project may lead to costly startup delays until compliance is achieved.


The Most Common Codes Everyone Should Know


International Fire Code – Regulates the means of protecting lives and material property from fire or explosion hazards when modes of prevention fail.


International Building Code – Covers all codes regarding buildings except for residential family homes.


Life safety 101 – This established set of standards is intended to protect the occupants of a facility at each stage of the building’s life cycle—from construction to its intended use and eventual demolition— minimizing the effects of fires and other related hazards.


NFPA 72 – The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code provides updated safety protocols to meet the ever-changing demands for improved fire detection, signaling, and emergency response communications. This code also regulates requirements for mass notification systems used for a wide range of emergencies from catastrophic weather, terror threats, biological dangers, chemical incidents, and even nuclear disasters.


OSHA 1910.164 – Standardizes regulations for fire alarm detection systems and OSHA 1910.165, which focuses on regulating employee alarm systems specifically.


Capital projects need to incorporate the requirements of these standards into their design since they are the most prevalent in constructing a facility. Compliance is far less likely without a deep understanding of these standards and where each applies. Most compliance errors are made due to:

  1. The lack of awareness of relevant regulatory codes.

  2. A deficiency in understanding requirements well enough to apply them properly.

Organizations that wish to avoid the cost and confusion over non-compliance need to do the research and audit their practices. The caveat with self-auditing code compliance is that it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack without knowing what a needle looks like. Companies that do not know what codes to look for or which apply to their facilities may benefit from engaging a firm that specializes in regulatory code compliance.


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