New Floor Finishing Regulations Approved
Responding to tragic and preventable house fires that caused three recent deaths and destroyed dozens of homes in Massachusetts, the state’s Board of Fire Prevention Regulations passed new regulations that will restrict the use of highly flammable wood floor finishing products.
A community-led Floor Finishing Safety Task Force proposed the regulations to the board in order to curb the needless loss of life and property. The new regulations, which go into effect on June 1, 2010, require a permit and a warning sign on every door of buildings where these highly flammable chemicals are used in floor finishing. The regulations also require the removal of ignition sources such as pilot lights before using these materials until the material has dried.
The Task Force, formed in response to two Somerville fatalities and a third death in Hull, praised the regulations as an important step in protecting the public against these unnecessary risks.
“These flammable floor finishing products ignite at such low temperatures that simply employing safety measures, such as extinguishing pilot lights or not smoking, will not prevent the ignition of these vapors,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the workplace safety organization MassCOSH, and coordinator of the Floor Finishing Task Force, which includes representatives from the floor industry, trade unions, workplace safety, public health and environmental groups. “We applaud the Board of Fire Prevention Regulations for instituting these regulations, and urge the legislature to take it a step further – by banning the use of these products altogether.”
Highly flammable materials are often used in the floor finishing process that are easily ignited by heat or sparks from smoking materials, pilot lights, and electrical appliances. The revised regulations address the many different hazards of floor finishing – improper electrical hook-ups, the storage of waste materials, and dust explosion hazards as well as the application of flammable liquids.
The floor finishing industry in Massachusetts is largely concentrated in the Vietnamese community. Viet AID, a community based organization that has been a leader in the Task Force, has been working with MassCOSH and other groups to raise awareness about the dangers of using lacquer sealer.
“We have provided training to the Vietnamese working in this industry to help them learn how to do the job safer and to use less toxic and less flammable products,” said Bruce F. Blaisdell, Viet AID’s executive director. “Unfortunately there are still hundreds of floor finishers out there using flammable products to do their work because it’s believed to be faster and cheaper. The only way to ensure that workers and the public are safe is to take these products off the market.”
According to the Task Force, these regulations are an important first step, but they call on the legislature to pass a bill banning the use of these chemicals altogether.
“Prohibiting the Use and Sale of Highly Flammable Floor Finishing Products,” House Bill 2304, filed by Representative Martin Walsh (Dorchester) would prohibit the use and sale of highly flammable wood floor finishing products that can ignite at temperatures less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.