CSB Commends New NFPA 401 Standard on Hazardous Waste

Oil depot fire at night. Dark smoke billowing from the fuel depot. Dramatic scene of an industrial fire at an oil refining factory. Emergency and disaster concept.

May 16, 2024

Exponent's Brian Ott chaired the Explosives Task Group that developed recommended fire prevention practices for waste pyrotechnics and fireworks

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is applauding the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for taking new actions to prevent fires and explosions related to hazardous materials. 

In December 2023, NFPA published "NFPA 401, Recommended Practice for the Prevention of Fires and Uncontrolled Chemical Reactions Associated with the Handling of Hazardous Waste," led by the Technical Committee on Hazardous Waste. The Explosives Task Group, chaired by Exponent Senior Managing Engineer Brian Ott, Ph.D., P.E., CFEI, developed practices specific to handling waste pyrotechnics and fireworks. 

NFPA 401 was developed in response to several incidents involving fires and explosions involving hazardous materials, including a large fire in Apex, North Carolina, in 2006, and 21 other incidents at other facilities across the U.S. In 2011, a fireworks storage facility near Honolulu exploded, killing five people. In the wake of the incident, the CSB recommended that NFPA incorporate best practices for the safe disposal of waste fireworks into their standards. The NFPA 401 Explosives Task Group was responsible, in part, for addressing the CSB's recommendation.

In a CSB press release, Chairperson Steve Owens said that NFPA 401 provides "important guidance on practices and safeguards necessary to prevent fires and explosions associated with these types of hazardous materials and can help prevent similar incidents in the future." 

"As chair of the Explosives Task Group," said Dr. Ott, "I found it to be very rewarding to work with the regulatory, explosives manufacturing, and hazardous waste disposal communities to develop a standard that helps improve worker and community safety with respect to the disposal of explosive hazardous wastes."

Organizations can use NFPA 401 to help prevent fires and uncontrolled chemical reactions at facilities that handle explosive and other hazardous wastes across the U.S.

Key recommendations include: 

  • The facility's risk assessment should identify potential emergency events and evaluate the facility's capabilities to respond 
  • Pyrotechnic and firework materials are discouraged from being soaked in diesel fuel before incineration 
  • Disposal of explosive hazardous waste should not involve disassembly, sea dumping, or landfilling