From: Tom Slavin <slavinosh**At_Symbol_Here**GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] lab occupancies and fire codes
Date: Fri, 5 Dec 2014 11:09:32 -0600
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: 009501d010ae$3d8848c0$b898da40$**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To <2690D306-2F4C-4063-987D-6589937A96DA**At_Symbol_Here**>

Curiosity got the best of me and made me do a little digging.


Many jurisdictions use the International Fire Code (IFC) from the International Code Council (formerly BOCA). Many provisions of the code are based on occupancy type. Educational occupancies apply up through grade 12. Educational occupancies above grade 12 fall into the business group, as do laboratories: test and research.


For occupancy limits the code uses two types of ratings: gross (total space within exterior walls) which is used for such occupancies as dormitories, business and industrial areas, and net (occupied space, not including corridors, stairways, toilet rooms, closets or mechanical rooms), which is used for educational areas. As Ray notes, furniture is already considered in the numbers.


Table 1004.1.2 of the 2012 edition specifies maximum sq. ft. floor area per occupant for an educational occupancy as 20 net for classrooms and 50 net for shops and vocational spaces (this would presumably apply to high school labs). For business occupancies (including universities and laboratories) it is 100 gross.


Both the IFC and NFPA 101 standard (life safety code) specify exit capacities and may indirectly limit occupancy if there is not enough exit capacity. For example, table 1015.1 of the IFC limits spaces with one exit door for business and educational occupancies to 49 occupants. As I recall the NFPA requirements are more stringent, especially for multistory buildings, but most jurisdictions use IFC.


Note: there are also 5 classes of high hazard occupancy that apply when certain quantities of hazardous materials are used or stored. The quantities that trigger the high hazard classification can be fairly low for high hazard materials (e.g. storing one pound of class 4 liquid oxidizer) but increase rapidly as the hazard drops (up to 250 pounds of class 2 oxidizer) The quantities also vary depending on many factors (e.g. presence of sprinkler systems, storage in approved cabinets, use in a ventilated hood, etc.). Requirements for high hazard occupancies can get stringent (e.g. maximum 3 people per exit door for H-1, H-2 or H-3 occupancies).


Hope that helps.


Tom Slavin

Slavin OSH Group, LLC

1212 N. Lake Shore Drive, 9BN

Chicago, IL 60610


Ph: 708.937.3244




From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Ray Cook
Sent: Friday, December 05, 2014 7:40 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] lab occupancies and fire codes


The occupant load area is determined by the space within the walls.  I think that fire person is mistaken.  As a past Fire Marshal, I recognize that the codes take into account the furnishings, which is why occupant load varies by facility usage or type.



Ray Cook, CIH, CSP



I Cor 1:18

Sent from my iPhone


On Dec 4, 2014, at 9:58 PM, Samuella Sigmann <sigmannsb**At_Symbol_Here**APPSTATE.EDU> wrote:

Ours is the same in NC.  To further clarify, according to our fire person that 50 sq ft/person has to be unobstructed with permanent structures.  We can't count the lab bench area - only the open floor space. 

I have never measured our floor space - I might be afraid to...

On 12/4/2014 7:29 PM, Debbie M. Decker wrote:

50 square feet per student - our teaching labs are about 1200 square feet and so we accommodate 24 students in lab.


It's in the fire code in California.  Your mileage may vary.




Debbie M. Decker, CCHO

Safety Manager

Department of Chemistry

University of California, Davis

122 Chemistry

1 Shields Ave.

Davis, CA  95616





Birkett's hypothesis: "Any chemical reaction

that proceeds smoothly under normal conditions,

can proceed violently in the presence of an idiot."





From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Melissa Charlton-Smith
Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2014 6:11 AM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] lab occupancies and fire codes


HI everybody,


This has probably been hashed over before, but it is a situation that may be cropping up at my institution and I need some "ammo".  Are there and NFPA codes that anyone is aware of that limits the occupancy of a lab?  I believe that 60-70 sq ft per person is recommended, but I am unable to find any code that specifically states that.  I don't want our local fire marshal to "have a cow" if the school overloads a lab.  I already have all my safety arguments lined out, but I'd like some solid regs and/or codes behind me as well.


You know how these things can crop up-you think you've drilled it into their collective heads that they can or can't do something, but sometimes it seems to fall on deaf ears and then you are forced to be the bad guy and say LOOK at the regs!  You CAN'T do this. Look at the liabilities (gotto throw up those $$$ signs).


Thanks all,




Mel Charlton-Smith

Chemistry Lab Coordinator, CHO-NRCC

Coordinator of BS-CHS program, Lecturer

WVWC - Chemistry Dept.


59 College Ave

Buckhannon, WV 26201






We, the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful.  We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do everything with nothing. Teresa Arnold

Samuella B. Sigmann, NRCC-CHO
Lecturer/Safety Committee Chair
A. R. Smith Department of Chemistry
Appalachian State University
525 Rivers Street
Boone, NC   28608
Phone: 828 262 2755
Fax: 828 262 6558


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