Are NFPA codes retroactive?

Improvements to workplace safety is an ongoing goal that often proceeds with incremental improvements. As new technologies develop, new standards are made, and more information is gathered, safety organizations like the NFPA will make updates to their codes and standards to help pass on the benefits to all their members. Many people will ask whether the NFPA code updates are going to be retroactive, meaning they would have to make changes to existing systems in order to remain compliant.

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Updating to the Latest NFPA Codes

In most situations, the NFPA codes are simply best practices that companies and agencies follow because they have been proven effective. In these situations, updates to NFPA codes are not technically retroactive because there is no enforcement option should a company not move to the latest standards. Instead, businesses voluntarily move to the updated codes in order to gain the most benefit from them.

Even if the NFPA did have an enforcement option, however, most of their updates would not necessarily be retroactive. Existing buildings and machinery could continue to operate as they currently are until they need to be replaced or updated for other reasons. When this happens, it is a good idea to move to the latest standards to ensure they are as safe as possible.

OSHA’s NFPA Requirements

Those NFPA codes that have been adopted by OSHA are required to be followed. Once OSHA adopts this type of standard they will typically provide businesses a set amount of time by which they must comply with the updates. They may also require that companies comply with the updates only after an area is renovated, but without a set timeline. Companies may decide to push forward with compliance so that they can enjoy the benefits as soon as possible. Either way, the code updates usually aren’t retroactive immediately unless there is a massive safety benefit that can’t be ignored.


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