4 The record articles

Fire Code and Chemical Classifications 101

Posted: May 2nd, 2022

Authors: Elijah W. 

There are several iterations of the International Fire code (IFC) that are used throughout the United States. While there are minor variations between the codes as implemented by different states, counties, or related jurisdictions, each establishes strict requirements related to the storage and use of hazardous materials. The IFC requires the classification of hazardous materials based on corresponding health and physical hazards, such as flammability, combustibility, corrosivity, toxicity, reactivity, and stability. The IFC also establishes a Maximum Allowable Quantity (MAQ) for each hazard category associated with hazardous materials that may be present at a facility. When a MAQ is exceeded, the facility must comply with specific requirements related to the construction and maintenance of the area in which the hazardous materials are used or stored. These areas are classified as high hazard or H-occupancies. The requirements for H-occupancies can include the need for secondary containment, spill control, ventilation, standby power, and more. If your business stores or uses hazardous materials in larger quantities, or if you are uncertain if those materials would be classified as hazardous, it is suggested that a chemical classification and occupancy evaluation be completed.

What is a Chemical Classification and why is it necessary?

A Chemical Classification is an assessment of chemicals used and stored at a facility (regardless of quantity) to determine corresponding health and physical hazards in accordance with the categories defined under applicable fire and building codes. The hazard information is then used in conjunction with inventory amounts to further evaluate potential compliance with MAQ values and potential H-occupancy requirements.

Depending on the type and quantities of hazardous materials used and stored at a facility, the city and fire department may require additional requirements be met. Exceeding the MAQ for a hazardous material will trigger much stricter requirements and can be costly to implement.

What is a hazardous material and what are the hazards identified by the fire code?

Hazardous materials are those materials, in usable or waste condition, that possess the physical and health hazards as defined under the fire code. Physical hazards are typically related to the flammability and reactivity of a material while health hazards are strictly based on how toxic or corrosive a particular material may be. While there are additional categories based on the severity of the hazards, hazard classes are generally comprised of the following categories:

Physical Hazards

  1. Explosives and blasting agents.
  2. Combustible liquids.
  3. Flammable solids, liquids, and gases.
  4. Organic peroxide solids or liquids.
  5. Oxidizer, solids, or liquids.
  6. Oxidizing gases.
  7. Pyrophoric solids, liquids, or gases.
  8. Unstable (reactive) solids, liquids, or gases.
  9. Water-reactive materials solids or liquids.
  10. Cryogenic fluid.


Health Hazards

  1. Highly toxic and toxic materials.
  2. Corrosive materials.


Our business already completes a Tier II or Business Emergency Plan (BEP). Would a Chemical Classification still be necessary?

Tier II and BEP reporting is required under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA) and is intended to inform the local agencies, state officials, and public of the potential hazards located at each facility. While similar, the reporting requirements for BEPs and Tier IIs differ from the hazardous material requirements under the IFC. The IFC considers both the usage and storage of a hazardous material when determining the MAQs and do not have a reporting threshold like the Tier II and BEP. Depending on the quantities in use and storage, it is possible to be below the reporting thresholds for a Tier II or BEP but still exceed the MAQs identified under the IFC.

Do you have questions about fire codes, chemical safety, or classifications?  ALL4 provides multiple services related to chemical classifications, health and safety of chemicals in the workplace, Fire Codes, Tier II reporting, BEP and Hazardous Materials planning.  Please contact Eli Waddell at ewaddell@all4inc.com with any questions about your storage and use of hazardous materials in the workplace.


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