Massachusetts Department of Fire Services Promulgates New Hazardous Material Processing Regulations

On February 3, 2012 the new Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (DFS) Hazardous Materials Processing regulation (527 CMR 33) came into effect.  DFS developed this regulation to help prevent the occurrence of incidents like the explosion in Leominster in 2005, the fire and explosion in Danvers in 2006, and the fire and explosion in Middleton in 2011 – all involving processes using hazardous materials.

The new regulation categorizes new or existing processes involving hazardous materials (haz mat) into one of five categories (five being the category with the most requirements) according to the following criteria:

  1. The size of the process vessel containing the haz mat(s)

  2. The NFPA 704 Rating for the chemicals involved or produced

  3. Whether the haz mat process is in an area of the facility that is classified as an H Occupancy under the Massachusetts State Building Code, and

  4. Whether the haz mat process is subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Process Safety Management Standard (PSM) or the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Risk Management Program (RMP) requirements.

There are exceptions for certain processes and haz mats which are listed in section 33.01(3) of the regulation.

The compliance schedule is as follows:

  1. Facilities with Category 5 processes must comply by January 1, 2013

  2. Facilities with Category 4 processes must comply by June 1, 2013

  3. Facilities with Category 2 and 3 processes must comply by January 1, 2014

  4. Facilities with Category 1 processes should already be in compliance (For these facilities compliance involves requirements that the facility is likely already subject to due to other OSHA standards and state fire codes.)

 The specific requirements for each category are called out below:Process CategorySize of Vessel (containing a haz mat with NFPA 704 rating 3 or 4)RequirementsCategory 1< 2.5 gallons

  1. Haz Com Program

  2. Chemical Hygiene Program

  3. Flammable Storage Permit/License

  4. Emergency Response PlanningCategory 2>2.5 gallons but <60 gallons

  5. Haz Com Program

  6. Chemical Hygiene Program

  7. Flammable Storage Permit/License

  8. Emergency Response Planning

  9. Haz Mat Processing PermitCategory 3>60 gallons but <300 gallonsOr a process area classified as a H Occupancy under the Massachusetts State Building Code

  10. Haz Com Program

  11. Chemical Hygiene Program

  12. Flammable Storage Permit/License

  13. Emergency Response Planning

  14. Haz Mat Processing Permit

  15. Category 3 Process Hazard AnalysisCategory 4>300 gallons and is not a vessel with a capacity that is not in excess of threshold quantities for OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standard or EPA’s Risk Management Program

  16. Haz Com Program

  17. Chemical Hygiene Program

  18. Flammable Storage Permit/License

  19. Emergency Response Planning

  20. Haz Mat Processing Permit

  21. Category 3 Process Hazard Analysis

  22. Category 4 Limited Process Safety ProgramCategory 5A vessel with a capacity that is in excess of threshold quantities for OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standard (PSM) or EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP)

  23. PSM or RMP Program

  24. Haz Mat Processing Permit

  25. Emergency Response Planning

Categories 2 through 5 require the submittal of an application for a  Permit to Process Hazardous Materials  to your local fire department (LFD).  The LFD will perform an inspection to see that the requirements are fulfilled and issue the Haz Mat Processing Permit.  The LFD may also request a third party review of process operations and associated hazard analyses for clarification that requirements are being met. Verify that your programs are in place and up to date to facilitate readiness for the permit inspection by the LFD.

The LFD also needs to be notified prior to engaging in any new or modified hazardous materials process activity which results in a change to the highest process category authorized by the current permit.  This involves the submission of a new permit application to the LFD.

As with any new regulation both the regulators and the regulated community need to learn about the regulation and how it needs to be administered.  The DFS is planning on conducting training sessions both for the fire service (LFDs) and the regulated community.  Keep an eye out for announcements about this training on the DFS website and the DFS Facebook page (

Application forms and inspection checklists are currently being developed by the DFS.

While you wait, CAPACCIO suggests that you look at your process operations, and the hazardous materials involved or produced by them, to be ready when the training and permit forms are available.   In preparation, answer the following questions for each process:

  1. Does the process use a haz mat in a vessel?

  2. Is the activity or process exempt from the requirements of 527 CMR 33?

  3. What is the size of the process vessel ?

  4. What is the NFPA 704 rating of the haz mat involved/produced?

  5. Is the process in an H Occupancy area?

  6. Is the process already subject to PSM or RMP requirements?

Remember that the majority of the requirements for Category 1 to 3 processes are ones that facilities are already subject to, and to which facilities should already be in compliance.  These regulations include:

  1. Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200)

  2. Occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories (Chemical Hygiene) (29 CFR 1910.1450 )

  3. Flammable and combustible Liquids (29 CFR 1910.106)

  4. Flammable Storage Permitting and Licensing (527 CMR 14)

  5. Emergency Response Planning

  6. Emergency Planning (Evacuation) (29 CFR 1910.38)

  7. Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) (29 CFR 1910.120)

  8. Hazardous Waste Contingency Planning (310 CMR 30.341(b))

It is also noted that Category 5 facilities should already be in compliance with PSM and/or RMP requirements (29 CFR 1910. 119 or 49 CFR 68 respectively).

Please contact Linda Swift at (508)970-0033 extension 119 or via email at with any questions you may have about this new regulation or assistance you may need in assessing how the regulation applies to your processes or in bringing the programs mentioned above up to date.

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