What's your MAQ?

For companies, organizations, or operations that store and handle hazardous materials answering the MAQ question is critical. The MAQ is the "maximum allowable quantities" of hazardous materials that may be stored, used, or dispensed within a single control area. Allowable quantities and process for determining the MAQ is outlined in NFPA 1, Chapter 60.

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Unless you deal with hazardous materials on a daily basis, "allowable quantities" and hazardous materials sections of the code can be daunting and overwhelming. Once you understand the basic components and process it becomes quite simple and straight-forward. Determining your MAQ can be broken down into a 4 step process.

Step 1. Determine your occupancy type.

Maximum allowable quantities can vary based on the type of occupancy that the materials will be stored or utilized in. There is a separate table for each of the following occupancy types:

  • Assembly
  • Educational
  • Day-care
  • Health care
  • Ambulatory health care
  • Detention and correctional
  • Residential
  • Mercantile
  • Business
  • Industrial
  • Storage
These tables begin at NFPA 1:  For modifications, or occupancies not covered, reference Table

Step 2. Determine the material type. 

NFPA 1:60.3.1 lists 14 hazardous materials classifications.  Determine which one of these classifications your hazardous material falls into:

  1. Corrosive solids, liquids, or gases
  2. Flammable solids
  3. Flammable gases
  4. Flammable cryogenic fluids
  5. Inert cryogenic fluids
  6. Inert gases
  7. Organic peroxide formulations
  8. Oxidizer solids or liquids
  9. Oxidizing gases
  10. Oxidizing cryogenic fluids
  11. Pyrophoric solids, liquids, or gases
  12. Toxic or highly toxic solids, liquids, or gases
  13. Unstable (reactive) solids, liquids, or gases
  14. Water-reactive solids or liquids
These are each defined within chapter 3 of NFPA 1 and in our Glossary of Hazardous Materials Classifications.

Step 3.  Determine the material class.

Many of these materials are further broken down in to classes.  These classes can be based on the state of the material, or the potential hazard it possesses.  These classes are defined in the materials definition (NFPA 1:3, or Glossary of Hazardous Materials Classifications).

Step 4.  Determine the material state.

Some hazardous materials can be stored, used, or dispensed in different forms or states. Determine whether your material is a solid, liquid, or gas.

When we put these steps together, here is how the process should work:

As the owner of "Widget Business Solutions", I find that there is a need for organic peroxides on site.  I start by going to the table in NFPA 1: This table outlines the MAQ per control area in Business Occupancies.

In the "Material" column I find 'organic peroxides'.  I see that there are different allowances based on class.  Further, research into my product reveals that this is a Class III organic peroxide (these burn rapidly and present a moderate reactivity hazard).

Next I need to determine in what state the material will be in.  Per the table, the only options available are Solid or Liquid.  I choose to utilize this material in its solid form.  Under the column labeled "Solid" I see that I can house 1,500 gallons of Class III organic peroxides.

When working with Hazardous Materials, you may find our Glossary of Hazardous Materials Classifications to be helpful --> click here to download.