Fire safety rules are under review
NFPA’s Technical Committee on Textile and Garment Care Processes is considering a
rewrite of the existing NFPA 32.
An article in the NFPA Journal noted that stricter regulations on perc use
prompted the industry to look at alternative solvents, a significant
technological shift with
important ramifications for NFPA 32, NFPA said.
“While this has led to innovative new technologies, including the use of
that use no solvents, it has also in some cases, led the industry away from
solvents and back to its roots: the use of combustible solvents, including
hydrocarbons, acetal, propylene glycol ethers, and siloxanes,” NFPA said. “Many of these
replacement solvents include flashpoints ranging from 140° F to 171° F.”
The current standard identifies drycleaning plants in terms of the solvent used,
based on the solvent’s flashpoint. Equipment safety rules cover pumps and piping, filters and
drycleaning machines. The rule also covers maintenance, construction, and
Nancy Pearce, staff liaison for NFPA 32, said the requirements of the new
document will be
based not only on the class of solvent, but also on equipment. The revised
standard will better
identify the type of equipment to be used with a particular solvent to make it
authorities what type of fire protection is required.
For example, the revised standard will recognize the differences between
open-circuit systems. Closed-loop systems have fewer fire protection
requirements than open
systems since there is less chance for the creation of fugitive emissions.
The standard is also expected to expand the facility maintenance requirements
training and work practices for employees.
Building construction requirements could also be modified to take into
consideration the type
of solvent and equipment used.
A new chapter will be added to differentiate between Type IV machines — those that use
perc — and Type IVA — machines that use solvents such as carbon dioxide.
“While there are existing storage requirements for the use of liquid carbon
requirements for the safe use of carbon dioxide in drycleaning do not currently
The NFPA Standard has evolved over the years since the first edition of NFPA 32
adopted in 1925, soon after the development of Stoddard solvent which had a
flashpoint than previous solvents.
Fire hazards and the difficulty of procuring insurance were factors in the
NFPA noted that in 1935 when there were 57,000 drycleaning plants in the U.S.
about 1,100 fires annually. Two thirds of the fires occurred in plants that used
naphtha as cleaning solvents. Interestingly, NFPA said, its records show about
number of fires occurred annually in drycleaning plants during the 2007 to 2011
The current version of the standard was issued in 2011. The technical committee
scheduled to post its first draft report in September which will be followed by
comment period. A second draft is scheduled for publication in July of next
The technical committee is chaired by Jan Barlow, a past president of the
Laundry Institute and owner of Jan’s Professional Dry Cleaners in Michigan. Six other industry
members are on the committee — Jim Douglas of GreenEarth Cleaning, Steve Languilli of
Columbia/ILSA, Mary Scalco of DLI, Chris Tebbs of Fabricare Solutions in Canada,
of Union Drycleaning Products and Bob Blacker of R. R. Street & Co. Inc. The committee also
includes representatives from fire safety and protection, insurance and
NFPA is not necessarily the last word on fire safety regulations. State and
can adopt the code as-is or with local amendments. Some jurisdictions opt to
International Fire Code. In the past drycleaners have run into conflicts between
NFPA and IFC,
particularly in regard to use of sprinkler systems in plants with high-flash
particular conflict was resolved several years ago, at least in California.