Massachusetts Permit to Process Hazardous Material


Update in effect as of January 1, 2015: The requirements for hazardous material processing (previously known as 527 CMR 33) are now listed under 527 CMR 1.00:60.  The full regulation has been carried over in the new revision.The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services enacted regulation 527 CMR 33 regarding the processing of hazardous material.  This new regulation was developed in response to incidents of fire and explosion in Middleton in 2011, Danvers in 2006, and Leominster in 2005, all of which involved the processing of hazardous materials.The new regulation means that any business which processes hazardous materials (in addition to storing them) will need a permit to continue to do so, beginning this year.  It categorizes users into five categories with Category 5 (highest volumes) having the most requirements for permitting, while Category 1 (lowest volumes, vessel capacity less than or equal to 2.5 gallons) does not require a permit although users are still responsible for compliance.  The permits must be renewed annually and are issued by the local fire department.Aside from requiring a permit, the new regulation means that federal OSHA and EPA laws governing hazardous materials will now be enforceable under state law for Category 5 users.   Lower level users will have fewer requirements for compliance but will still need to provide required documentation, upon request, to their local fire department (summarized below).  It is also important to note that this permit is separate from a storage permit.Category 4 has the next, upcoming compliance deadline of June 1, 2013, and applies to a process which involves or produces Hazardous Material, which occurs in a vessel with a capacity that is greater than 300 gallonsand is not considered a Category 5 Process. A Category 5 Process involves or produces Hazardous Material which occurs in a vessel with a capacity that is equal or in excess of threshold quantities stated in 29 CFR 1910.119 (OSHA Process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals Requirements) or 40 CFR Part 68 (EPA Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions).[i]

Category 4 Requirements in Simple Terms

Although not as stringent as Category 5 requirements, the requirements for Category 4 are still fairly complex, so we’ve provided a summary below, for reference.

1. Hazard Evaluation: A written evaluation performed or procedure conducted to identify hazards, including adjacent vessels that contain hazardous materials, and determine the required preventive, protective, and safety control measures in conformance with recognized and generally accepted good engineering and safe work practices associated with a particular process or condition and the facility wherein such process or condition is taking place.

2. Limited Process Safety Program: A written evaluation to ensure compliance with:

  • Process information: MSDS, P&ID, process control safety alarms, safety relief valves
  • Facility suitability: Building code compliance, electrical hazard classification, ventilation design, secondary containment / spill control, fire alarm / fire protection (see table below for summary)

Building Code Compliance

High Hazard Features

Electrical Classification

  • Height and area, construction type
  • Control Area layout and separation
  • Group H occupancy classification and location
  • Exhaust separation and routing
  • Fire suppression and alarm systems
  • Means of egress
  • Explosion control
  • Spill control, secondary containment, drainage for sprinkler discharge
  • Monitor controls, standby/e-power, haz-mat alarm system
  • Smoke and heat venting for >15,000 sq.ft. areas
  • Fire detection
  • Review to code at time of construction, not new code.


  • Massachusetts Electrical Code – amended
  • NFPA 70 (2011) – National Electrical Code
  • Article 500 – hazardous locations
    • Class I – flammable gases and vapors
    • Class II – combustible dusts
    • Division 1 – hazard under normal operation
    • Division 2 – hazard due to spill, leak, etc
    • Class I Groups – A (acetylene), B (hydrogen), C (ethylene), D (propane)
    • Class II Groups – E (aluminum), F (carbon black), G (wood)


  • Process hazard safety analysis (FMEA, what-if analysis, HAZOP with appropriate process safety controls to mitigate the hazards associated with normal and abnormal operating conditions)
  • Written procedures for startup, shutdown, routine operating / maintenance, emergency response measures
  • Training program for employees and contractors
  • Records management protocol including management of change
  • Internal review every 3 years

3. Good Engineering/Safe Work Practices

  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)

The guiding principles for these practices have been established by AIChE, please see their website for further information.

  • Building Codes (High Hazard Use Groups)
  • National Consensus Standards (NFPA standards)[ii]

The above summary of Category 4 requirements is simply a recommendation based on the regulations referenced in 527 CMR 33.05 (outlined below) and may not apply for all Category 4 users.  The compliance requirements for each category build upon those established for the previous one (i.e. Category 4 compliance requirements include those for Category 3, plus additional requirements) and are based on previously established regulations from OSHA, the EPA, etc.  If you would like to understand where these requirements come from and the laws and regulations they are based on, we have provided a list below for your reference.

Category 4 Compliance Requirements and Regulations

1. (Applicant must) Provide documentation that adequately demonstrates that the facility complies with the requirements for a Category 3 process in accordance with 527 CMR 33.05 which include:

  • Documentation that adequately demonstrates that the facility maintains and implements a policy in compliance with

– 29 CFR 1910.1200 (OSHA Hazard Communication Standard)

– 29 CFR 1910.1450 (OSHA Exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories Standard)

– 527 CMR 14.00 (MA Board of Fire Prevention Regulations: Flammable and Combustible Liquids, Flammable Solids or Flammable Gases)

  • Completed Hazard Evaluation: Hazard Evaluation policy must be in place and completed prior to conducting such processes or activity modification thereto
  • Appropriate process safety controls to mitigate the hazards associated with normal and abnormal operating conditions as identified in the Category 3 Hazard Evaluation.

2. Completed Category 4 Limited Process Safety Program (based on a limited portion of OSHA PSM 14 standards)

  • Category 4 Limited Process Safety Program policy is in place and has been completed prior to each process or being modified.

3. Appropriate process safety controls to mitigate the hazards associated with normal and abnormal operating conditions as identified in the Category 4 process limited safety program.

4. Comply with the permitting requirements of 527 CMR 33.04.

5. Comply with the Emergency Response provisions of 527 CMR 33.06.

6. Maintain Category 4 Limited Safety Program documents and records for review by the Head of the Fire Department or Marshal for a minimum of two years following issuance of a permit. [iii]

Please contact SPEC if you are unsure how these new regulations impact your business or you need help assembling the appropriate documents to apply for a permit to process hazardous materials.

SPEC has worked with many businesses that process hazardous materials and has significant experience working with clients to ensure they comply with state and federal regulations including OSHA PSM and EPA CAPP.  In fact, SPEC continues to work with Bostik after their recent explosion to rebuild their facility and bring them into compliance.

For further information on this new regulation, please visit the Office of the State Fire Marshall’s website.

Please watch for future installments of the SPEC Report where we will continue to shed light on this and other new regulations and standards that impact the process community.


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