FSSA’s Opposition to California S.B. 886, Sprinkler Fitter Certification Act

May 7, 2012

Email: Senator.Price@senate.ca.gov
Senator Curren D. Price, Jr.
Chair, Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development

Email: Senator.Emmerson@senate.ca.gov
Senator Bill Emmerson
Vice Chair, Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development

Re:
Opposition to California S.B. 886,Sprinkler Fitter Certification Act

Dear Senators Price and Emmerson:

I am writing on behalf of the Fire Suppression Systems Association (“FSSA”) a membership organization whose members include the manufacturers and designer-installers of special hazard fire suppression systems using non-water extinguishing agents. “Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems” include engineered and pre-engineered fixed fire suppression systems which use non-water extinguishing agents, such as dry chemical, wet chemical, carbon dioxide, foam, halogenated agents and other inert gas and halocarbon clean agent extinguishing systems. FSSA’s membership scope does not include water fire sprinkler systems. For more information on FSSA please visit www.fssa.net.

First, we point out that the licensing program proposed in S.B. 886 is completely unnecessary and its negative fiscal impact on the California Budget is not justified from a public safety standpoint. The California State Fire Marshal already has a licensing program in place for all persons engaged in the business of servicing or testing automatic fire extinguishing systems, defined broadly to include fire sprinkler systems, engineered and pre-engineered fixed  extinguishing systems and standpipe systems. (See: Health and Safety Code, Ch. 1.8, Automatic Fire Extinguishing Systems, Sections 13195-13199). The State Fire Marshal’s website states:

“All businesses in California that test or service automatic fire extinguishing systems, including but not limited to, fire sprinkler systems, engineered and pre-engineered fixed extinguishing systems, standpipe systems, and water flow alarm devices must first be licensed through the Office of the State Fire Marshal, or the Contractor’s State Licensing Board. Applicant’s are granted SFM licenses if they meet certain work experience and/or training requirements and pass an on-site field inspection of their facility.”1

In order to obtain an automatic fire extinguishing system license the applicant is required to submit a list of employees and their experience and qualifications.2 This submission must include all confirmations or certificates attesting to employee competency, training, qualifications and manufacturer’s authority to service the system, and other documentation which shows evidence of training received on systems (e.g., seminars, continuing education classes).3 The submissions are then evaluated by the State Fire Marshal’s office to assure the applicant has qualified employees to perform the work on fire extinguishing systems.

California already has a licensing program in place for the businesses and their workers who design, install and service automatic fire extinguishing systems. FSSA respectfully suggests that another overlapping program is not warranted.

Second, this proposed legislation has been offered in prior legislative sessions and in view of the principled opposition, the so-called “Sprinkler Fitter Certification Act” has failed to gain support sufficient to pass both chambers. A.B. 600 was introduced in the 2009-2010 Regular Session and A.B. 2288 was introduced in the 2008-2009 Regular Session.

Third, if enacted, S.B. 886 could have significant anti-environmental consequences which would be in direct conflict with A.B. 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act. The prime purpose of A.B. 32 is to prevent unwanted discharge or release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Some extinguishing agents used in Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems are classified as greenhouse gases with global warming potential (GWP), if released to the atmosphere. As explained in detail below, a sprinkler fitter, plumber or pipe fitter who has completed an apprenticeship program does not thereby have the training and expertise needed to design, install, service, inspect or maintain a Special Hazard Fire Suppression System. As a result, the likelihood of a system accidently releasing an extinguishing agent with a GWP increases when the system is being worked on by a person who has not been properly trained by the system manufacturer. This increased environmental risk can be avoided by the current practice in California of having qualified and trained personnel work on Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems. That training is not provided in an apprenticeship program for sprinkler fitters, plumbers or pipe fitters.

1 http://osfm.fire.ca.gov/strucfireengineer/strucfireengineer_aes.php
2 California Code of Regulations, 19CCR§905(c)(3)
3 See SFM’s Application for Automatic Extinguishing Systems License, http://osfm.fire.ca.gov/strucfireengineer/pdf/aes/Aeslimitedapplication.pdf

Turning to S.B. 886, FSSA opposes the overly-broad definition of “fire suppression system” in new section 13200.01(b) the Health and Safety Code that would be added by S.B. 886. The bill would establish new qualifications to license persons who do any work on a “fire suppression system”, defined in the bill as:

“an automatic or manual system designed to protect occupants or structures from fire. ‘Fire suppression system’ includes, but is not limited to, a water sprinkler system, water spray system, foam water system, foam-water spray system, carbon dioxide system, foam extinguishing system, dry chemical system, wet chemical system, halogenated system, and other chemical systems used for fire protection. ‘Fire suppression system’ also includes sprinkler piping, risers, standpipes, aboveground supply lines, tank heaters, hose connections to sprinkler systems, air lines, thermal systems used in connection with sprinklers, and pumps dedicated for fire suppression.”

Basically, the licensing scheme would provide that an individual not perform work on any fire suppression system, as defined, unless he or she possesses a valid sprinkler fitter, or a valid sprinkler fitter apprenticeship permit and is supervised by a holder of a valid permit. A person who passes a test established by the State Fire Marshal would be eligible to obtain a sprinkler fitter certificate if:

. the person has successfully completed an approved sprinkler fitter apprenticeship program,

. the person has successfully completed a plumbing or pipe fitters apprenticeship program, or

. the person holds a valid C-16 license as a fire protection contractor.

FSSA respectfully comments that while a sprinkler fitter, plumber or pipe fitter may be qualified to work on a fire sprinkler system connected to the building’s primary water source, these skills are totally unrelated to a person’s qualification to design, install, test, service and maintain Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems. A person who is a sprinkler fitter, plumber or pipefitter is—simply put—not thereby qualified to design, install, test, inspect, service or maintain a Special Hazard Fire Suppression System. Let us explain.

Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems provide critical fire protection to such high hazard or high value facilities as:

. National defense systems, commercial and military aviation,

. Telecommunication systems, data processing and storage installations,

. Petrochemical facilities and energy pipelines,

. Explosion hazards,

. Power generation, transmission and control, and

. Irreplaceable art objects and documents (our Bill of Rights at the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institute, Mount Vernon, etc.).

The majority of these systems use high pressure and low-pressure DOT pressure vessels for storage of various types of fire extinguishing agents, such as carbon dioxide, halon 1301, halocarbon clean agents, nitrogen, mixtures of atmospheric inert gas clean agents, and dry and wet chemical agents. These systems are completely different from the typical water sprinkler system which connects to a water source, with the extinguishing agent (water) flowing through piping, and whose discharge is controlled by sprinkler heads. The piping for a typical fire sprinkler system must be suitable and safe for a maximum pressure of 175 psi.

By contrast the piping for a Special Hazard Fire Suppression System must be designed and installed to safely operate at pressures ranging from 300 to 4,250 psi. Obviously, from a safety standpoint, the plumber/pipefitter experienced in doing the piping for a water fire sprinkler system does not have the skill to design and install a much higher pressure piping system required for our members’ products.

One need only refer to the National Fire Protection Association’s safety standards to verify the difference. While water sprinkler systems are governed by NFPA Standard 13, our Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems are governed by separate NFPA standards (e.g., NFPA 12 (carbon dioxide systems), NFPA 12A (halon 1301 systems), NFPA 17 (dry chemical systems), NFPA 17A (wet chemical systems) and NFPA 2001 (clean agent/chemical systems)). Linear detection systems and aspirating detection systems are covered by NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm Code.

In addition, special hazard systems are typically designed, installed, tested, inspected and maintained by designer-installers who receive extensive training from the original equipment manufacturer (“OEM”) applicable specifically to that OEM’s product line. The manufacturers have an established network of trained and qualified companies, with access to repair parts, replacement extinguishing agent, service bulletins and other information which is critical to maintaining the system’s ability to respond to a fire or explosion when needed. Unlike the fire sprinkler system, whose design is basically prescribed in NFPA 13, the design of Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems (and their installation, testing, inspection, servicing and maintenance) requires training and experience not obtained by those engaged in the sprinkler fitter and plumbing trade.

The existing network of Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems manufacturers and designer-installers has long provided effective special hazard fire protection to end users in California, and indeed globally. Our industry has done so through factory-trained and qualified men and women. We respectfully see no need or justification to bar these competent individuals in California from continuing their occupations simply because they are not journeyman plumbers or pipefitters. Current laws and regulations provide more than enough ample regulation of our industry members engaged in business in the State. This legislation is particularly unnecessary and counterproductive given the extensive certification authority now exercised by the State Fire Marshal over fire protection equipment contractors, the same individuals which the bill proposes to further regulate.

For the foregoing reasons, the Fire Suppression Systems Association respectfully requests that S.B. 886 be rejected by the Committee. Absent rejection, it should be amended to have application only to those individuals who work on water fire sprinkler systems that connect to the building’s primary water source, which fall within the long-recognized scope of NFPA Standard 13, Standard for Sprinkler Systems or NFPA 13D or 13R, in a manner consistent with the existing State regulatory framework for these occupations.

Respectfully submitted,

FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS ASSOCIATION

Crista LeGrand
Executive Director

cc:
Members, Senate Committee on Business,
Professions and Economic Development
Tonya Hoover, California State Fire Marshal
Mary D. Nichols, Chairman, California Air Resources Board
Elizabeth Scheehle, California Air Resources Board

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