Staying up to date with CO2 Inspection Codes

The average business owner thinks that the “code” is stagnant and never changes. They wonder why an inspector they haven't seen for 10 years is suddenly asking them for something new. However, even if they don't realize it inspection codes are always being updated or added to.

One example is food trucks. Twenty years ago inspection codes didn't mention food trucks because the food truck revolution had not started. However, the last few code cycles of code changes have regulations for food trucks appearing as safety requirements for propane, ventilation, and more. The job of these codes is to keep people safe and that requires a constant cycle of updates and additions.

Carbon Dioxide monitoring is similar to food trucks in that the requirements to monitor them have only appeared in the last few code updates. For example, the National Board Inspection Code (NBIC) was the first to codify requirements for CO2 monitoring in their 2012 edition. This was in response to incidents such as the one in Phoenix, AZ.

The Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors started with what was under their purview: cylinders, and bulk storage vessels. The early codes from the NBIC discussed the need for specified alarm set points based on OSHA requirements and that a warning device must be located outside the hazard room to pre-warn occupants of an issue.

The NBIC code was recently updated July 2021, having been accepted by the committee and included the following revisions:

Part 1:

  • Revised carbon dioxide gas detection system requirements for Liquid Carbon Dioxide storage vessels.

Part 2:
  • New requirements for remote visual inspection for confined space entry.

  • Several revisions/updates to the inspection requirements for PVHOs (pressure vessel for human occupancy).

  • Revised carbon dioxide gas detection system requirements for Liquid Carbon Dioxide storage vessels.

    The NBIC also includes Standard Welding Procedure Specifications (SWPS) and requirements for NO2 measurement which have been strengthened in several circumstances.

Unlike the NBIC, OSHA’s expectations cover more than just the CO2 storage vessels. OSHA is uniquely interested in the health and safety of all employees in commercial workspaces. For CO2, OSHA and NIOSH (the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) have created guidelines for CO2 exposure that clearly state that no lower than 5,000 ppm TWA should be utilized for the first alarm, 15,000 ppm as the Half STEL, 30,000 ppm as the STEL, and 40,000 ppm as it IDLH. These standards are fixed by OSHA and do not change.

The next organization to include regulations around stored CO2, CO2 safety, and safety monitoring was the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). However, the NFPA did not have a nice, neat place to put CO2 monitoring requirements so they squeezed it into NFPA 55 Cryogenic Fluids codes. 

The NFPA 55 is considered to be the most "vanilla” of all the codes as it relates to CO2 because it mandates almost no specifics about devices, locations, or performance. The last update to the NFPA 55 was released in 2020.

The last organization that has mandated CO2 monitoring is the International Fire Code (IFC). The IFC is part of the International Code Council (ICC) that also creates building, electrical, plumbing and additional codes. The IFC has traditionally been the code that is more prescriptive about devices, locations, and alarm setpoints. Some of the common recommendations in the IFC include:

  • 12 inches from the floor-mounted height for monitors
  • First alarm at 5,000 ppm
  • A safety monitor or increased ventilation is required whenever 100 lbs. or more of CO2 is stored. 

One of the keys to accurately and effectively monitoring to meet codes is to know specifically what your jurisdiction requires. This isn't always easy. CO2Meter recommends you contact your local fire inspector and ask specifically what they require. Inspectors are always open to proactive individuals as it demonstrates your desire to meet their codes and keep your staff and the public safe. 

A second resource is your CO2 provider. They may offer an option for you to lease a monitor. However, leasing a safety monitor has two drawbacks First, while your monthly cost seems low, you likely will have paid for that monitor within about 18 months of installation. Second, you can not use the monitor as a capital expense on your taxes.

Remote CO2 Storage Safety Alarm for CO2 Safety Monitoring

In response to CO2 safety monitoring and compliance, the Remote CO2 Storage Safety Alarm (RAD-0102-6) continues to meet the increased requirements for the OSHA STEL (Short Term Exposure Limit) with alarms at 1.5%, and at 3% CO2. This device is designed to protect customers and workers near stored carbon dioxide (CO2) and is also designed to meet NFPA, IFC, and NBIC Requirements. In addition, the monitor features both audible and visual alarms and 3 built-in relays that can control an exhaust fan or send an alarm to the fire department or monitoring company. 

If you are nervous about calling an inspector proactively, or do not feel comfortable doing so, contact us about the requirements for your local jurisdiction. We are happy to help.

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