The Uneasy Solution: Change the Packaging
In an effort to placate those who would rather not have a standard, the Agricultural Dusts committee has done everything possible to make 61B a more agreeable document. These changes have largely been a matter of form, not substance. The language in 61B has been toned down considerably over time. References to such unpleasantnesses as "injuries to personnel" have been replaced with less specific references to hazards in general. The introduction to the 1959 version of 61B warned that: "GOOD HOUSEKEEPING AND CLEAN PREMISES ARE THE FIRST ESSENTIALS IN THE ELIMINATION OF DUST EXPLOSION HAZARDS, CONSEQUENTLY THIS CODE IS NOT INTENDED TO LESSEN IN ANY WAY THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE OWNER AND OPERATOR IN THIS RESPECT ." This language was moved to the appendix in 1973, and the capital letters were replaced with regular capitalization. The statement was omitted entirely in the 1980 version. Only the gentlemen's agreement remains.
Placing things in the appendix is a popular compromise. Fully one-third of the 1980 version of 61B is appendix material. The appeal of this compromise is clear: the individual in favor of the material gets it "into the standard" in some form, while those opposed to the specifics take considerable solace in the fact that it is "not a requirement." Employee health and safety, a subject avoided in many NFPA standards but favored by the labor representative on the 61B committee, is addressed in an appendix added in 1980.
The appendix also contains more specifics than the actual standard. For example, the standard requires that "horizontal surfaces shall be minimized," while the appendix indicates that the "suggested angle of repose is 60 degrees." This is another tactic in the search for a liability-proof standard. The hope is that through the appendix the generalities in 61B can be given meaning in a nonenforceable manner. The official NFPA position, set forth in every standard, is that the appendix "is not part of the requirements … but is included for informational purposes only." Of course, one of the stated purposes of NFPA's "requirements" is to provide information.
The difference is really a matter of wishful thinking. All NFPA "requirements" are informational until an "authority having jurisdiction" chooses to enforce them. Moreover, the authority can choose to enforce the appendix as well as the "requirements" proper. An NFPA member who has worked with this committee confirms that appendix material is often treated by state fire marshals as having equal weight to the "requirements." The wishful thinking paid off, however, in the case of grain elevators. Some OSHA citations were overturned by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission precisely because they relied on material contained in the appendix of 61B.