4 Ways to Extinguish Risk When Hot Work Is Performed
This post is part of a series sponsored by IAT Insurance Group.
When it comes to mitigating risks, control and prevention go a long way. Nowhere is this more evident that in the realm of hot work.
Hot work is any job involving flame, spark production or heat, that can ignite a fire with surrounding materials. A wide variety of cutting, burning and welding-type activities are considered hot work, and are hazardous when oxygen, fuel or any other combustible material, and an ignition source is in proximity to each other.
In the United States, an average of 4,580 structure hot work fires occur each year, claim 20+ lives and cost about $484 million in property damage.
Take precautions to prevent problems
Mitigating hot-work related risks is essential for property owners, construction managers and even transportation or equipment companies who engage in vehicle/truck maintenance on-site, for example.
Project teams should first assess whether hot work is truly necessary, or if an alternative technology or process can be used to produce the same result. For example, new technologies now allow for more mechanical pipe-fitting techniques that eliminate the need for hot work.1
Still, not all hot work is avoidable. In addition to following NFPA 51B: Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting and Other Hot Work, here are four steps to minimize your risks when hot work is required to get the job done properly:
- Use a hot work permit. These permits document hazards and outline precautions that should be in place before any hot work commences and should be posted on job sites. Ensure that the contractor or employee doing the hot work has read the regulations, understands them and has signed off on them. You can download hot work permit forms from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) website.
- Plan for the hot work. Assess the environment where the hot work will be performed. Remove or shield combustible materials within 35 feet of the work area using fire-retardant blankets. Don’t overlook that heat transfer occurs through walls to combustibles that may be in the wall or on the other side.
- Keep fire extinguishers close. If ignition occurs, the fire can spread quickly. If a fire extinguisher isn’t nearby and located without hesitation, the situation can get out of control very quickly, especially with highly combustible materials in the area.
- Stay on-site and do a fire watch. Sometimes hot work fires start as a slow burn and build slowly, going unnoticed until they are out of control because no one monitored the area after work was completed. Perform hot work early in the work shift so employees can observe the area for at least one hour afterwards to ensure no flare-ups or fires occur.
Be proactive and hands-on with contractors
Communication is key when contractors perform hot work on job sites. Ultimately, it’s the property owner or project manager’s responsibility to meet with contractors to ensure safety measures are in place and enforced.
Don’t assume that the contractor will remove combustibles and perform a fire watch, for example. Owners/managers onsite should conduct morning meetings with contractors to get verbal confirmation at the time that appropriate precautions will be taken and make sure a hot work permit is issued beforehand. So, monitor fire watches and roll up your sleeves to help remove and shield combustibles as needed.
Helping to control the environment in these ways when hot work is necessary will mitigate your risk overall. Be present and proactive when protecting your property.
For more information on how to mitigate the risks involved in hot work, contact IAT.
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Have a question on how to mitigate risk? Email [email protected] for a chance to see your question answered in a future blog.
 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) “Hot Work Safety Fact Sheet,” April 2021.
 NFPA Today “Hot work incidents and statistics remind us of the importance of pre-incident planning and a dedicated fire watch in chemical, industrial, and manufacturing settings,” September 24, 2021.
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