Founded in 1896, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the world’s leading advocate of fire safety. The NFPA publishes more than 300 codes and standards dealing with subjects as diverse as combustible metals, vehicular fuel systems and fire-hose connectors with an overall goal of minimizing the occurrence and effects of fire.

The NFPA’s “consensus standards” are documents that contain fire-safety requirements developed by a technical committee, using a consensus-based process. The technical committee, which is the heart of the NFPA standards-development process, is comprised of approximately 30 voting members representing a balance of interests. The process is called “consensus” because the committees are balanced, with no more than one-third of the members belonging to any single interest group (e.g., manufacturer, user, enforcing authority, insurer and special expert).

A primary objective of the standards-development process is to produce “model” codes that can be adopted into law at the local, state or federal level, and many NFPA standards are broadly adopted as such. But even if a particular document has not been designated law of the land in a particular jurisdiction, it is nonetheless an “industry standard,” and the contents should be reviewed and considered as a representation of the state of the art in fire safety.

NFPA 86, the Standard for Ovens and Furnaces, was first published in 1931 and has undergone more than a dozen revisions in the past three-quarters of a century. The current (2007) edition was designated as an American National Standard on Aug. 17, 2006.

In 2007, the NFPA 86 Technical Committee was comprised of 10 “manufacturers,” eight “special experts,” seven “insurers” and six “users.” A few of the individual members also represent trade associations such as IHEA, FIA and NEMA.

The standard-development process involves three main steps: proposals, comments and final approval. The technical committee handles the first two steps, and the last step is carried out at the NFPA Standards Council level.