(1) Scope and application. This section contains the minimum requirements for design, installation and maintenance of sprinkler systems that are needed for employee safety. The occupational safety and health administration is aware of the fact that the National Board of Fire Underwriters is no longer an active organization, however, sprinkler systems still exist that were designed and installed in accordance with that organization's standards. Therefore, WISHA will recognize sprinkler systems designed to, and maintained in accordance with, NBFU and earlier NFPA standards.
(2) Exemptions. In an effort to assure that employers will continue to use automatic sprinkler systems as the primary fire protection system in workplaces, WISHA is exempting from coverage those systems not required by a particular WISHA standard and which have been installed in workplaces solely for the purpose of protecting property. Many of these types of systems are installed in areas or buildings with little or no employee exposure. An example is those warehouses where employees may enter occasionally to take inventory or move stock. Some employers may choose to shut down those systems which are not specifically required by WISHA rather than upgrade them to comply with the standards. WISHA does not intend to regulate such systems. WISHA only intends to regulate those systems which are installed to comply with a particular WISHA standard.
(3) Design. There are two basic types of sprinkler system design. Pipe schedule designed systems are based on pipe schedule tables developed to protect hazards with standard sized pipe, number of sprinklers, and pipe lengths. Hydraulic designed systems are based on an engineered design of pipe size which will produce a given water density or flow rate at any particular point in the system. Either design can be used to comply with this standard.
The National Fire Protection Association's Standard No. 13, "Automatic Sprinkler Systems," contains the tables needed to design and install either type of system. Minimum water supplies, densities, and pipe sizes are given for all types of occupancies.
The employer may check with a reputable fire protection engineering consultant or sprinkler design company when evaluating existing systems or designing a new installation.
With the advent of new construction materials for the manufacture of sprinkler pipe, materials, other than steel, have been approved for use as sprinkler pipe. Selection of pipe material should be made on the basis of the type of installation and the acceptability of the material to local fire and building officials where such systems may serve more than one purpose.
Before new sprinkler systems are placed into service, an acceptance test is to be conducted. The employer should invite the installer, designer, insurance representative, and a local fire official to witness the test. Problems found during the test are to be corrected before the system is placed into service.
(4) Maintenance. It is important that any sprinkler system maintenance be done only when there is minimal employee exposure to the fire hazard. For example, if repairs or changes to the system are to be made, they should be made during those hours when employees are not working or are not occupying that portion of the workplace protected by the portion of the system which has been shut down.
The procedures for performing a flow test via a main drain test or by the use of an inspector's test valve can be obtained from the employer's fire insurance company or from the National Fire Protection Association's Standard No. 13A, "Sprinkler System, Maintenance."
(5) Water supplies. The water supply to a sprinkler system is one of the most important factors an employer should consider when evaluating a system. Obviously, if there is no water supply, the system is useless. Water supplies can be lost for various reasons such as improperly closed valves, excessive demand, broken water mains, and broken fire pumps. The employer must be able to determine if or when this type of condition exists either by performing a main drain test or visual inspection. Another problem may be an inadequate water supply. For example, a light hazard occupancy may, through rehabilitation or change in tenants, become an ordinary or high hazard occupancy. In such cases, the exiting water supply may not be able to provide the pressure or duration necessary for proper protection. Employers must assure that proper design and tests have been made to assure an adequate water supply. These tests can be arranged through the employer's fire insurance carrier or through a local sprinkler maintenance company or through the local fire prevention organization.
Any time the employer must shut down the primary water supply for a sprinkler system, the standard requires that equivalent protection be provided. Equivalent protection may include a fire watch with extinguishers or hose lines in place and manned, or a secondary water supply such as a tank truck and pump, or a tank or fire pond with fire pumps, to protect the areas where the primary water supply is limited or shut down. The employer may also require evacuation of the workplace and have an emergency action plan which specifies such action.
(6) Protection of piping. Piping which is exposed to corrosive atmospheres, either chemical or natural, can become defective to the extent that it is useless. Employers must assure that piping is protected from corrosion by its material of construction, e.g., stainless steel, or by a protective coating, e.g., paint.
(7) Sprinklers. When an employer finds it necessary to replace sprinkler system components or otherwise change a sprinkler's design, employer should make a complete fire protection engineering survey of that part of the system being changed. This review should assure that the changes to the system will not alter the effectiveness of the system as it is presently designed. Water supplies, densities and flow characteristics should be maintained.
(8) Protection of sprinklers. All components of the system must be protected from mechanical impact damage. This can be achieved with the use of mechanical guards or screens or by locating components in areas where physical contact is impossible or limited.
(9) Sprinkler alarms. The most recognized sprinkler alarm is the water-motor gong or bell that sounds when water begins to flow through the system. This is not however, the only type of acceptable water flow alarm. Any alarm that gives an indication that water is flowing through the system is acceptable. For example, a siren, a whistle, a flashing light, or similar alerting device which can transmit a signal to the necessary persons would be acceptable. The purpose of the alarm is to alert persons that the system is operating, and that some type of planned action is necessary.
(10) Sprinkler spacing. For a sprinkler system to be effective there must be an adequate discharge of water spray from the sprinkler head. Any obstructions which hinder the designed density or spray pattern of the water may create unprotected areas which can cause fire to spread. There are some sprinklers that, because of the system's design, are deflected to specific areas. This type of obstruction is acceptable if the system's design takes it into consideration in providing adequate coverage.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 49.17.040 and 49.17.050. 82-02-003 (Order 81-32), § 296-24-60799, filed 12/24/81.]