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Activities in the News: ICC Fire Code Officials Reject New Rules for Exterior Pallet Storage
The proposed rules would have presented formidable problems for many pallet recyclers across the country.

By Staff
Date Posted: 11/1/2013

                After the wooden pallet industry lobbied for changes and pointed out the need for further analysis and study, the voting members of the International Code Council (ICC) voted in October not to adopt proposed rules for exterior pallet storage. Had the proposals been adopted they would have been published with the new codes set to be released next year for consideration by municipal and state authorities.

                The proposed rules would have presented formidable problems for many pallet recyclers across the country and others that store lots of pallets outside of buildings. The National Wooden Pallet & Container (NWPCA) lead the effort to oppose the proposed rules because they were seen as too strict and would not necessarily solve the problems they were intended to address. While pallet fires are a serious concern for the industry, the NWPCA among others argued that more studies need to be done to address how best to solve the issue. Also, the NWPCA stated it had not been included in the initial drafting of the policies even though its members stood  to lose the most by the code changes.

                The NWPCA commented, “This is not the end, but the beginning of an ongoing effort by NWPCA with the ICC to develop safety practices that our industry can support and implement. The NWPCA Standards Committee will be given the lead with this project. We also will be inviting a broad coalition of technical staff from the wood products industry to lend their expertise to this effort.”

                This was certainly a tough fight because the proposal had gone through the ICC committee process and had reached the final hearing before a vote by the ICC members. Joining the NWPCA in opposing the code changes was staff of the American Wood Council and a consultant with Fire Protection Engineers.

                One of the reasons for the code changes is that existing rules do not address exterior storage of pallets. At the same time news reports of fires connected to the outdoor storage of pallets continue to be too common. The proposed changes are now off the table until the next code cycle in 2015. But the industry needs to be aware because the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) could take up similar concerns as it updates its code in the coming year. NFPA and ICC are two different standards organizations although they often mirror actions taken by each other.

                Specifically, the NWPCA opposed the proposals due to concerns over the storage patterns, distances to property lines, and the size of fire lanes required between stacks of pallets and other concerns. Also, the NWPCA claimed that more collaborative effort would help to develop code changes that will help solve the problem without putting undue burdens on pallet companies.

                Although the issue is far from over, it appears the industry dodged a serious bullet, and is now in line to be part of the discussion going forward.

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