Steptoe & Johnson PLLC: WV Fire Commission Rules Could Impact Mining & Construction Industries

By Paul A. Konstanty

On July 25, 2012 the West Virginia State Fire Commission issued a Notice of Public Hearing on a Proposed Rule to amend the State Building Code which was originally adopted in July 2010.  One public comment period ended on May 4, 2012, and the final written comment period will end on August 24, 2012.  Here's what you need to know, and how the proposed amendments may affect your business:

The proposed amendments include an adoption of the 2012 National Fire Codes Supplement and an update of the National Fire Code from the 2009 version to the 2012 version.  One of the major additions in the 2012 version of the Code and Supplement is the requirement for all one and two family dwellings, townhouses, condos, and apartments to be constructed with a sprinkler system.  The residential construction industry responded with written comments in opposition, citing the recent 2010 adoption of the Code and arguing that further amendments just two years later will create an undue hardship on the construction industry.  In addition, the added cost to new home construction - by adding mandatory sprinkler systems - will further weaken and erode new home construction opportunities in the State.  Special mention was made of areas of the State where public water is not available and where the required sprinkler systems would presumably be fed by residential well-water.  Opposition also came from non-profit organizations that build affordable housing for low-income families.  

The proposed amendments also include new requirements for the use of explosives and blasting activities.  These amendments require a blasting license to be issued by the State Fire Marshal and impose more control over adverse effects from blasting.  The term "flyrock" is defined in the amendment as "rock, debris or mud" from blasting activities (not dust or detonation byproduct); and the proposed amendment requires that "flyrock" shall not be cast beyond the operating boundary of the permitted work area.  In the event that flyrock is cast beyond the permitted work area, the licensed blaster is required to notify the State Fire Marshal within two hours of learning of the incident and submit a "flyrock" incident report to the State Fire Marshal within three days of the incident.  The amendment also includes requirements for maintaining blasting records (blast log) and for annual refresher courses for licensed blasters.

The West Virginia State Fire Commission has asserted that the proposed amendments will have no impact on the costs and revenues of State government; and that the changes are merely an update to newer NFPA standards that do not change the way the rule is enforced in any manner.

The public comment period on the proposed Rules and amendments ends on August 24, 2012.  Comments may be submitted to the following address: 

Office of the State Fire Marshall
1207 Quarrier Street, 2nd Floor
Charleston, WV 25301

or via email at anthony.w.carrico@wv.gov.  A public hearing is scheduled on August 24, 2012, at the location above, beginning at 4:00 P.M.  Anyone wishing to make comments at the hearing is encouraged to submit written comments prior to the hearing to facilitate the review of those comments.

© 2012 Steptoe & Johnson PLLC  All Rights Reserved   Disclaimer

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