Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Lampworker and the Law: Fire Codes

There has been a ton of negativity in this industry lately and I simply refuse to buy into all of's easy enough to find without my providing links. I thought instead I should concentrate on the positive. This will be the first in a series of posts meant to inform members of this community and to promote business owner's that have been libeled by the negativity and outright lies floating around.

Let's begin with fire codes. I don't know of a single lampworker who goes into this hobby / profession lightly. There are many safety considerations: storage of tanks, tie-down of oxy tanks, leaky lines, ventilation, work-surface protection, and the all important fire extinguisher. Let's face it: NO ONE wants to blow their house up or even injure themselves! Most of the lampworkers I know took several classes before ever bringing a torch into their home. And all gave that list above great consideration.

But is that in compliance with the law??? I don't know about your town but I found out a lot about what my county requires by placing a call to my local Fire Prevention office. I got transferred about three times before I got a compliance officer. So I will speak of L.A. County here but would like each of you to contact your own Fire Prevention office as rules can vary.

L.A. county subscribes to the rules set forth by the Intenational Code Council, an association dedicated to building safety and fire prevention. Cities can take this code as is or improve upon it to meet the specific needs of their community. Here are some of the highlights for my county:

Some cities may require a hot work permit. This permit often requires an inspection which reviews all of the above and can address how and where you store your tanks and how many you can have. Type of tools, amount of gas and specific city determines whether or not this is required.

Storage of tanks: Oxy tanks must be chained and placed twenty feet from any gas or other combustible. Alternately, a fire wall between the tanks is acceptable.

Amounts of propane needed for lampwork really is a non issue...we are allowed up to 125 gallons (The most I ever have is 15 - and that's counting my barbeque!). The tanks must be stored five feet from my home and my neighbor's property. There is no recommendation for distance between tanks for such a small amount. Over 250 gallons, tanks must be three feet from each other.

Additionally, tanks not in service must be disconnected and closed. (Can I get a "Duh!" here???)

Here in LA LA land, there are very few basements...thanks to the earthquakes we have. Yet I live in a mountainous area with a bedrock base; Many in this part of town have basements. I was shocked to learn that propane is not allowed in basements here because it is heavier than air and, if allowed to accumulate below the house, could easily blow up. Good thing I don't have a basement!

It is completely illegal to do any hot work in an apartment. Often the gas tanks are an outright violation of a tenant agreement. It is also not permitted on a much for my living-on-a-boat fantasy!

Other Recommendations:
Keep floors clean.
Check tank connections with soapy water.
Know the life span of your equipment and replace worn hoses.

All of the above is good basic safety info and is required IF and only IF your Fire Prevention Office requires a permit. Or if you don't want to blow yourself up.

Mine DOES NOT require a permit because: 1) I am using small amounts of a gas frequently used around a home and 2) I am using a "self-contained torch apparatus" designed for the specific purpose of mixing oxygen and propane safely.

That being said, do I adhere to all the ICC recommendations above? ... well, I COULD keep my floors cleaner but Hell yes, I do!

So, if you stick to the rules above you probably aren't breaking any law. And, should the Fire Inspector mysteriously show up on your doorstep... they just want to keep you safe. Be nice, work with them and you'll be safer for it!

Artwork above from T-shirt available on Zazzle.


Studio Marcy - Marcy Lamberson said...

Holly, great post. Thank you for bringing up this important topic and spelling it out so well.


Dreamer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glasstastic Treasures said...

omg Holly, you crack me up. I appreciate the info, and will be making some calls myself.

My superpower is being adult enough to NOT blame others for being a lying cheat.

Oh, sorry, did I say that outloud? lol

Dreamer said...

Very well said. Thank you for the humor and the research! Sorry, I deleted my comment earlier.

PokaiBay said...

Excellent post!

My DH is a know the rules kind of guy -- plus we use propane on our boat and there are all sorts of double up safety regulations.

He put up Hardee board on all surfaces surrounding my torch (found at Home Depot and Lowes) that is used behind fireplaces. He also double checks all connections when he changes the propane tanks -- which is outside and vented.

I talked to another lampworker at the Puget Sound Bead festival -- who's husband has a similar background to mine and she also has the Hardee board UNDER her on the floor. She has a carpet -- I don't.

Oh my DH is a retired Volunteer Firefighter who understands safety regulations, chapter and verse. In fact he's written some of the regulations. Firefighters are very safety conscious when they've spent the night putting out a house fire.

Lea Avroch said...

I do the same PokaiBay, at least I think it's the same. Mine's called wonderboard. It's flameproof. I have it on all sides of my workspace & underneath my stainless steel table on all 3 walls. DH insisted & I do think it's a good idea. I don't have it on the floor, but I work in the basement with cement floors.

Thanks Holly for bringing up these very important safety precautions.

Tillerman said...

Don't give up on the idea of living on a boat. We use propane for cooking on our boat, it's stored according to UK boating regulations, you might look into that as I'm sure there are regulations about boats but there has to be some way of cooking, etc so maybe you could do this after all.