Illegal Operation

08/09/2014


From original questioner:

903.2.3.1 Woodworking operations.
An automatic sprinkler system shall be provided throughout all Group F-1 occupancy fire areas that contain woodworking operations in excess of 2,500 square feet (232 m2) in area which generate finely divided combustible waste or use finely divided combustible materials.

i discovered this will investigating moving our operation into a larger building.

how many of you are operating in violation of this?



From contributor La


That's been a code requirement for many years. Can be modified by the local code authority. How many are spraying lacquer legally?

From contributor Pa


I have had the building department arbitrarily put me in a H category for doing the same as the rest of you. The building had sprinklers but that wasn't enough. The inspector was a complete A hole.

The moral is to check with the building department of the city you intend to move to and their reputation.

From contributor tn


Yep, I ran into this earlier this year. I'm loosing the lease to my current space and was looking to buy. I found a great 4,000 sq ft. metal building in a great location.

I discovered the sprinkler requirement and knew it was going to be expensive. I got one ballpark quote of 30k to sprinkler 4,000 sq feet! I passed on the building.

If you are renting you might see if the owner would cover the cost with a long term lease.

From contributor JB


I believe most, if not all new spray booths come with an integrated automatic fire suppression system, I bought a small used booth10 years ago and it came with this, I paid $1500 for the booth, fan and extenguishers. I put it in a dedicated 1000 sq. ft. building we call the "paint room". I don't think water sprinklers would put out a lacquer fire. My system is pretty simple and easy to maintain. Just my 2 cents, Johnny

From contributor Pa


You do realize that the sprinklers are at 150 psi?

I have seen them put out a hot oil fire stemming from 50 gal or so of oil, with the sprinklers 14' above the fire.

From contributor Ja


Municipalities are the ones who adopt or decline then enforce the IFC (that you quoted). It is not a national 'law'.

Possible option instead of sprinkling: Firewalls and fire doors/shutters for the areas you are making 'dust'. Again, this would also be subject to interpenetration by a code official.

From contributor th


thanks for the replies and suggestions.

landlord talked with an architect who suggested a firewall separation to get our fire area (production) below 2500 sf. This is the same size shop we have now and the benefits of the larger space would be totally negated if this is our option.

this really sucks for older buildings without sprinklers. it is going to make it even harder to find a new place. and the general public wonders why manufacturing moves out of the usa.

From contributor Ja


google:

Don't put your whole shop in the 2500 sqft. Just those machines that make 'finely divided combustible materials'. Finishing is a totally separate animal, assembly is different. A well placed fire wall with a shutter door on a fuse-able link that is normally open will likely get you where you need to be especially in a 4k sqft place (for a lot less than sprinklers). You could likely make it to your advantage even, keeping the dust down in your finishing & final assembly.

Before you waste a bunch of time on all this, go sit down with the local inspectors and tell them what you intend to be doing in the space and what codes you need to abide by. (let them educate you as to what they expect) If this is one they abide by & enforce, ask them (have a conversation) if partitioning the dust making activities off will satisfy the requirements in their eyes. In the end it is up to them and how they interpret & enforce this. While some municipalities are more business friendly than others, your business will generate tax revenue for them and it helps to keep that in mind.

It can be frustrating I know, as much as you may loath dealing with your local Gov't, if you wish to be legal in your area, you will have to. Do so with great courtesy & respect, it will go easier. Ask them to help you. You piss em off, and you have little recourse, especially without a large bank account!

Realize the code is there because of some potentially dangerous situations (&/or some stupid people). While you (as I) may not like the implementation, or mandate of this and other codes, the goal should be ours all the same. To have a safe work place for us and our employees.

From contributor th


jay -

yes, i agree with what you have said, but i'm still pretty hesitant to volunteer my place to inspection, especially since i cannot get a price check on the amount of work, etc. that would need to be performed in order to make my operation 100% legal (without announcing my presence and inviting inspection). we operate in a safe manner and i'm not worried about fire/public safety. the city would be better served with an anonymous q&a session to encourage compliance. i'm sure i'm not alone with my hesitancy to interact with local government.

also, i loath that the "rules" are up to interpretation. we ran into this in a couple of instances where the "interpretations" where completely off-base (in my former life as a home builder) and our only recourse was to satisfy the inspector (do what he said). there is almost no recourse as complainers will be dealt with further maltreatment (unless, of course, i hire an attorney or expert witnesses - neither of which work with the schedule or budget).

your locality might be better but ours is pretty business unfriendly.

From contributor Da


The last large shop I built for my last employer was three rooms, each at 50' x 100'. One was rough lumber storage, one was production with machinery, and the third was finished goods storage. Dust collection was a silo, fan, filters and fan motor outside the building. All the rooms were separated by firewalls and fire doors with drop down doors activated by alarm or fusible links. We heated and cooled only the production area, so we placed large doors faced with steel on Bommer hinges at the fire doors so we could come and go with lumber carts and fork trucks.

From contributor Ja


google,

It sounds like our municipalities may not be too dissimilar. (not especially business friendly) I am not suggesting they come to you at all! Rather, perhaps you could go in to their office simply 'inquiring'... I am considering doing such & such in your jurisdiction what codes do I need to consider? What will you expect to see? ....... No company name required, not a lot of details, no it is not formal or binding, but if you talk to the right people you should be able to get the info you need. Some quick calls to a fire door company, and you should already be able to ball park the cost of a firewall, to give you a budget for the project.

The EPA has gotten much more involved in the last few years in our area, as well as the usual OSHA.

If you are not getting any inspections right now from a fire marshal &/or insurance rep at least, and that is how you like it, don't grow. If you grow you WILL get to deal with these different agencies. (don't add employees either) The more you grow, the more you will deal with them. Either you stay small and try to skirt these things, or you grow and figure out how to make it work with them in your life. With any luck you should be grandfathered wherever you are currently. I was grandfathered in my old shop, but as soon as I moved these all became front & center. I realized quickly why there are very few 'bigger' shops in my area, and I don't think any of these happened in the last 8-10 years, likely for this very reason.

From contributor La


Fire walls & fire doors aren't cheap either. The catch on walling off a 2500' area is it will be really tight for anything other than a one/2 man shop. Sprinkling just part of the shop doesn't make a lot of sense from a cost point of view either. Much of the cost is in the mains connection, Outside shut off post, big pipe into the building underground, shut-off valves, back flow preventers, alarm system, test connections, etc. that have to be put in no matter how big the area. The rest of the piping & sprinkler heads are relatively cheap. Our building was built as an 8,000' with me renting only 4,000'. It was sprinkled. Then we added 6,000+' and they just tapped on to the existing headers for extending the sprinklers. Then we added 15,000' and they also just tapped in to the existing headers. That addition had the insurance company wanting to see the sprinkler plans before it was done. They asked for more dense coverage than UL. It didn't cost much more & was done.

It surprised me that they could just keep adding on. The explanation was that it was assumed that a fire would only start in one area and that the system would prevent its spread. They didn't even need to run new big lines to the addition farthest away from the inlet. They said that all the cross pipes that had heads would provide a distributed flow to the next area.

Learned some things talking to the city, sprinkler company & insurance inspector. The city doesn't do any design work or I think even check the design. They take the engineer's word that stamped the plans.

You will need to have the system inspected and tested once a year by a licensed company. Not very expensive.

If you have areas that are not heated and subject to freezing, you may have to put in a dry pipe system. No one likes them.

From contributor th


thanks again for the comments.

jay - not a bad plan but i'm not 100% sure i could get away with going down there anonymously. i've thought of this previously and have a call into another shop that moved up and was hit by the city so bad that it almost drove him out of business. i'll get the skinny from him on the stuff they made him do. i know they made him firewall off his widebelt to the point that it is almost unusable in the space they confined it too. they also made him put in explosion/fire-proof lighting everywhere (i think i remember him saying $600 a fixture plus wiring).

i started by myself in 2008 with limited funds. i've poured almost everything back into the business, focusing on sales and on upgrading equipment. compliance with regulation is next on my list now that we are starting to make a little money but this stuff isn't cheap. nor does it add any real value to my business or clients - my clients don't care if have a three-hour firewall and certainly aren't going to pay more for our products so i can make money and comply with regulation.

From contributor Gr


I'm a huge supporter of the regulations we have and those who enforce them. No, I don't like that I'm paying $2,500 to OSHA this year for what amounts to mostly nonsense. But I very much appreciate the local fire department inspections, given that I've got neighbors left and right who would gladly skirt any regulation they could to save a buck. The 5" walls that separate us won't stop a fire in their unit taking out my shop too.


From contributor Pa


"I'm a huge supporter of the regulations we have and those who enforce them. No, I don't like that I'm paying $2,500 to OSHA this year for what amounts to mostly nonsense. But I very much appreciate the local fire department inspections, given that I've got neighbors left and right who would gladly skirt any regulation they could to save a buck. The 5" walls that separate us won't stop a fire in their unit taking out my shop too."

At any price?

Why couldn't the landlord or even a tenant group do the same?

Seriously why do we need the state to do this for us?

From contributor Al


Pat,
We have uniform building codes that have required sprinklers for years in buildings over a certain size and in others based on the fire hazard. Some people think dust in the air is harmless and dust on the floors and machines doesn't matter. Good dust collection improves machine and tool life as well as preventing fires.

I don't want the guy next door who doesn't believe in regulation or influences a supervisor to not have to have dust collection or sprinklers because of expense, when his lacquer soaked rags combine with the spark that sets off the dust I lose because of his lack of responsibility so a local group deciding what's best won't work in our litigious society.

Fire codes get more stringent based on what fire departments learn in fires. A lot of the current rated door and fire codes were updated after the MGM and Las Vegas Hilton fire in the 80's. They saved some money, no way to get people out of the building. All per codes that were too weak.

a lot of the US uses the UBC or one of to other uniform codes. Every city can adopt their own codes, other than big cities it doesn't make a lot of sense.

We have been in buildings with sprinklers since our inception. We didn't even look at buildings without sprinklers.

This isn't new law, it may have been newly discovered but this requirement has been around in some form since 1978 that I know of.

If you a fireproof building with plenty of exits, you may not need sprinklers.

A-



From contributor Pa


Alan

The UBC is one thing, but with every agency metastasizing into a rent collection machine is another.

Grant, stating that he is a huge supporter of the regulations and in the next sentence indicating that he had to pay a $2500 fine to OSHA describing the infraction as nonsense; to me this statement is non sequitur.

The incident I talked about was one inspector taking it upon himself to grossly contort the UBC at my expense.

My main objection are when the rules are ambiguous and randomly enforced.

This is the case with OSHA where most people would be only too happy to pay a $2500 fine. Or in my case with a recalcitrant inspector costing 10s of thousands additionally for a tiny shop. On the other end of the spectrum license law is enforced randomly, not to mention the accompanying expenses.

That is not to say that the public servants, in our grandiose state are not overpaid, with a seat belt ticket costing $172.00 because they have to justify their salary or are just trying to bring in money as is the case with OSHA who is or was self-funded.

From contributor Al



>>Grant, stating that he is a huge supporter of the regulations and in the next sentence indicating that he had to pay a $2500 fine to OSHA describing the infraction as nonsense; to me this statement is non sequitur.

Well we use a service that negotiates OSHA fines, we had a situation a few years ago where all through the inspection the inspector commented on how clean and safe our operation was, he then noted a few minor things and we get a 5 figure fine, we paid about $1,100 and the guy documented the inspectors conversation so its all negotiable.

>>The incident I talked about was one inspector taking it upon himself to grossly contort the UBC at my expense.

I have seen that, at a large level in 1970 I was building a 3 story office building, next door was a 12 story, inspector interpreted the code wrong, decided on engineering contrary to what the engineer said for our building and we had 3 weeks reinforcing floor trusses. I don't know what kind of trouble the 12 story building had, jump head 18 months we are building the next building and a new inspector comes out and I was what happened to the other guy. The guys next door hired him as a "code compliance manager". It was Colorado so no bribes, just hire the guy, overpay him and get him out of the way.

>My main objection are when the rules are ambiguous and randomly enforced.
Yes, it happens, sometimes the fight takes years.

>This is the case with OSHA where most people would be only too happy to pay a $2500 fine. Or in my case with a recalcitrant inspector costing 10s of thousands additionally for a tiny shop. On the other end of the spectrum license law is enforced randomly, not to mention the accompanying expenses.

Professionals can help sometimes

> That is not to say that the public servants, in our grandiose state are not overpaid, with a seat belt ticket costing $172.00 because they have to justify their salary or are just trying to bring in money as is the case with OSHA who is or was self-funded.

But none of this justifies not having sprinklers in a potentially explosive environment with lots of fire hazardous materials.

There definitely isn't a lack of stupid working for the government. Just look at my sales tax story from years ago.

Or figure out why the ADA is different in every city.

A-


From contributor Pa


"But none of this justifies not having sprinklers in a potentially explosive environment with lots of fire hazardous materials."

All of this requires some judgement, which is where stupid gets in the way.

Is a 2500 sq ft shop going to generate as many combustibles as a grain silo?

But one thing is for sure, when they generate 800 new laws per year at the state level and 40,000 at the fed level, there is more opportunity for stupid to manifest itself.

To which the trite reply is, ignorance is no excuse.

So then we try to make enforcement uniform by having something like the 3 strike law which circumvents stupid but also circumvents judgment (which is what judges do as a living), the results are a booming prison guard union and prison system.

I would say there has to be some judgement and there has to be a LOT less of what has to be judged i.e. regulations, laws and rules.

The later trumps the former because it is implemented through the use of force to the tune of 40,000 new ways to use that force per year...

From contributor Al


> All of this requires some judgment, which is where stupid gets in the way. Is a 2500 sq ft shop going to generate as many combustibles as a grain silo?

Someone that isn't aware of the law and understand why and how its there isn't in a position to make a reasonable judgment of why they need or don't need fire protection.

If its a 2500 square foot building stand alone wood frame with wood roof, its a completely different discussion than a 2500 square foot building with block walls and a metal roof.

Construction type, size, adjacent use all affect codes.
You can't put 10 2500 square foot wood work shops in a 25,000 square foot building and not sprinkle. A dust collection fire from metal in the core will happen to any size plant. If the collector is in the shop and blows what happens?

I think the OP does not have enough information and understanding to make a decision that he doesn't need it, and is need based on financial need as in I can't afford it or public safety. Who and how do we deicide who is smart enough to decide, without regulation?



From contributor Pa


"I think the OP does not have enough information and understanding to make a decision that he doesn't need it, and is need based on financial need as in I can't afford it or public safety. Who and how do we deicide who is smart enough to decide, without regulation"

Yup, but neither does the idea of acquiescing to "I'm a huge supporter of the regulations we have and those who enforce them."

From contributor th


thanks for the replies.

alan f. - my experience is that most government is out of control and regulation is well within that grouping. prior to this i built houses and when we started in 2002 we were using boca code from 1997. fast forward a couple of years and we started using the icc and were getting new updates every two years. obviously, there were plenty of meaningful, should-have-been-done-before changes but there seem to be as many changes that added significant costs to building a home without adding any real value. for example, in our area almost all homes are built on crawl spaces. my personal house was built in the 60's and isn't falling apart. the spacing for floor joist girders and concrete block piers is triple what was implemented in the last installment right before 2008. there is no real value in "upgrading" a section of code that didn't need to be upgraded. yes, you can build a better house by using #1 framing material (instead of #2) but this particular area offers no market-able (buyers don't care) for the added expense in complying with this rule. just out of control regulation.

my original intent was to inform others about this provision and to see what others were/have done about it. having to be proficient in woodworking, sales and marketing, bookkeeping/accounting, keeping up with sales and use taxes, etc. i'd never been informed that such a provision existed (even though, i should have "known" as ignorance is no excuse). as it turns out, my landlord is in the process of upgrading our new building with sprinklers so we will be somewhat legal in moving over there. i'm still not going to call up the city and ask for an inspection but at least we won't be in violation of this rule.

there are simply too many rules that are vague enough for black-and-white compliance that we are all rule breakers.

From contributor Al


Google,
#1 and #2 have different load bearing capacities and used to be in the structural tables of the UBC. The goal is to achieve a live load, a dead load, an uplift resistance, a shear resistance and other factors that are geographically based and design based. Without knowing the structural logic in why it changed an analogy is mines fine is not a valid test. Flooding, tornadoes, winds, rain all affect load, sheer and uplift.
A floor on piers with vents will be subject to uplift. If a carpenter doesn't understand the basic engineering logic of why it was one way and why it was changed its hard to make valid comments.

As to the sprinklers, lets look down the road to 3 years rom now when you have a fire and no sprinklers in a building that should require them, both your insurance and the owners insurance are going to look for a way to not pay and they just found a valid argument.

I don't like government anymore than the next guy but I would rather focus on things I can change. When I use to have my license I would go to 1 city to get a permit and the city next door had their own code.

The city we were in had a big sign at the permit counter about 2' letters that said YOU AREN'T IN DENVER, because everyone used to say Denver lets us do x.

The rules were different.

I get we can't know all the rules but sprinklers aren't a new rule that just snuck into the code. The opposite argument to that is a landlord should know what occupancies he can accommodate and shouldn't let a business in without requiring changes or telling you what's not allowed.

A simple question like is your building zoned for a cabinet shop and does your building meet all the local requirements for that type of business with an amendment to the lease that puts the responsibility and cost in the landlords court to bring the building into compliance will at least cause someone to look before they sign a lease.

I remember 10 cent gas an air you couldn't breathe in Los Angles, There are about 200 million more people in the US than when I was born, I would be happy if we had fewer people, one thing that is historically true, we have always complained about regulations.

I choose to focus on what I can change and adapt to that I don't like.

A-



From contributor Pa


Yup and "I'm a huge supporter of the regulations we have and those who enforce them. No, I don't like that I'm paying $2,500 to OSHA this year for what amounts to mostly nonsense."

Predisposes a person to a continuation and escalation of the burden.

From contributor Al


Pat,
have you negotiated the fine down, we use a different company but as a small employer you may be eligible for a 60% reduction


From contributor th


alan,

you've missed my point with #1 and #2 lumber. obviously, #1 allows for greater spans, etc. but i didn't mention building a house with fewer sticks, only substituting #1 for #2.

as for uplift, let's ignore the engineering and defer to common sense. if we have enough water and/or wind to remove a house from its foundation, pier spacing and girder specifications will matter little. same goes for new-ishly implemented hurricane straps (specific to our area - these tie the deck rim into the foundation's footers). does it matter if the deck is saved while the rest of the house is washed away? will this somehow be reusable in the rebuild? i doubt it very seriously and, as a layperson and not professional engineer, i don't need sophisticated computer models to tell me this. can i not make an argument with only common sense as my ally?



From contributor Al


google, you can make a common sense argument but if it isn't fact based and olyn experience based then you may not come to a correct conclusion.

If you had a metal building for a shop and had the doors open in summer the building is subject to uplift, the solution is design for wind rates in the area, singe anchor bolts deeper into the concrete, make the anchor bolts stronger.

I used to frame and trim sub contract in the 70's in Boulder and Denver areas. We did a mixed apartment condo development in Boulder. The apartment units were all sided and the roofs attached with a hurricane clip. The condos had 5 standard units and 1 custom unit with a cut roof. We did the standards and the builder did the customs. I went on vacation and the day I got back my partner called me and aid I had to come see the wind damage. Boulder is subject to high winds as cold air comes over the Rockies and drops to the lower elevations, one of these big winds (close to 100 mph) came in the end of the custom unit and tore the roof from the plates and it was in a field about 100 feet away, this was an 80 x 100 foot section of roof, all the clips tore out. Had the builder completed the end of the building the roof would have held. The building wasn't designed for failure during construction.

All the adjacent buildings had minimal damage. I had never seen that in 1,000 of buildings, that doesn't mean it can't happen, only that my experience was limited at the time.

The methods, surface, anchorage are all designed based on how to limit a reaction to specific force and how that is achieved is up to an engineer so I don't think we get to ignore it. Some shops think shop laminating or veneering onto melamine is fine and they go years without a failure; that doesn't make it what I consider a reliable method.

Obviously a post laminated end that is captive to the case is more stable than a door.

I sat in a meeting with our engineer, my boos and the head of a building department late on a Friday trying to get a permit. The head of the building department was concerned about the span and loads for the floor and as an example he said, we don't want tenants getting crappy design floors like this building which had massive sag. The engineer stated, actually I designed this building and was specifically told that you wouldn't place file storage in the open floor area. I will send you a copy of the cities agreement for your records and you will need to move the files or risk structurally destroying the building.

The head of the building departments practical experience was the building was poorly engineered, yet the city wasn't using it the way they had the building designed. You have to wonder how many times he used that example without really understanding the cause and effect.

Some companies use hard drywall screws to fasten cabinets to walls, as long as the cabinet is never subjected to a sudden movement I guess its okay but a hard screw will break where a softer screw will bend. One is the correct solution, the other a practical solution until it fails. (person slips, grabs cabinet while falling, cabinet shears from wall, cause, improper attachment).
Result 1 hurt homeowner, I sued GC, sub, 1 sub out of business, lesson learned, not passed on. GC settled for 1 million in 1986, we weren't the cabinet sub.

A-



From contributor Pa


Good points Alan

OTH Assuming the government knows best is not a good policy either.

I hear you about focus on the things that you can control. However a complete indifference to those that you cannot control is what gets us 800 new state laws and 40000 new federal laws per year.

From contributor th


alan -

interesting points but you loose credit for bring lawsuits into the discussion. there are plenty of example of legal victories where the plaintiff's case should have been thrown out if not for their attorney's ability to manipulate the system to their advantage, and ultimately, their payday. no doubt, a softer screw maker would be called upon as a paid expert witness to throw the cabinet installer under the bus. i would too, if i could generate sales for my product through fear-mongering and make a little coin for my court appearance. i mean, this beats the helll out of cold calling.

From contributor La


Interesting story about design loads Alan. While I was getting my architectural degree I had struck up a good relationship with one of the profs that taught Structures classes. He asked if I'd like to go along to one of the admin buildings that was showing stress. Got there, went to 3rd floor, they had converted that floor into records storage from it's original use as office space. Rows of racks floor to ceiling loaded with boxes of paper files. It was a reinforced concrete building and the floor was showing considerable sag! The prof explained to the head of admin what the problem was, the response was that the building was poorly designed and should have supported that much load!
On our walk back to Arch Hall the prof said something to the affect... you can't fix stupid...

From contributor Al


goggle,
the AWS require FASTENERS to be a minimum of 3 (76.2 mm) x #10 (4.6 mm) diameter screw with a surface-bearing head.

The WI used to state DRYWALL, BUGLE HEAD OR CASE HARDENED SCREWS ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. They will break in an earthquake zone.

The person falling was to illustrate that rapid shear can happen with or without an earthquake. The lawsuit was the result of a cabinetmakers belief of a method of attachment that was not based on engineering and a lack of understanding of the need and means for attaching casework. The methods of attachment he used was actually not allowed in California WIC grade rules so there was plenty of engineering reasons for why it failed without calling in a screw maker.

Everyday we see posts on these boards from people that don't know how to do something, some come and learn but how many were taught something in a shop and what they were taught was incorrect but accept it as an absolute?

I apologize for my spelling and grammer but this is the only board I post on that doesn't allow edits or have built-in quoting and sometimes I don't catch it in preview mode and forget I have iespell

A-