This article is Part 2 of our “Quick Facts About Fire Hazards” series. Check out the post on combustible dust. And stay tuned for posts on flammable liquids and gases, equipment and machinery, and electrical hazards.
According to U.S. Chemical Safety Board Investigations Supervisor Donald Holmstrom, with accidents occurring weekly, hot work “has become one of the most significant types of incidents the CSB investigates, in terms of deaths, in terms of frequency.”
Here are some quick facts about hot work.
What is hot work?
Hot work is any manual work that can produce a spark, which in turn creates a fire hazard. The most common examples are welding and cutting.
Where is hot work permitted?
Hot work should only be done in authorized areas. OSHA Standard 1910.252, which covers general requirements for welding, cutting, and brazing, lists the areas where hot work is prohibited. For example, hot work should never be performed in areas where combustible materials are present.
How do hot work fires happen?
In general, fires require three things: fuel, an ignition source, and oxygen. Hot work, by definition, provides the ignition source, so if flammable materials — combustible dust, flammable liquid, etc. — are present, you can quickly have a problem on your hands.
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (Canada’s version of OSHA), hot work fires “are often the result of the ‘quick five-minute’ job in areas not intended for welding or cutting.”
How do you prevent hot work fires?
Preventing hot work fires is largely a matter of knowing the risks and making smart choices. The first consideration is whether hot work is even necessary. For example, could you use manual hydraulic shears instead of torch cutting?
If no alternative is possible, make sure that the area is authorized for hot work, even — or perhaps especially — when it’s just a “quick five-minute job.” Finally, make sure you have a hot work permit system in place. This will both reduce the likelihood of a fire and help you stay in compliance with safety codes.
For more information about hot work and other fire hazards, read 5 Major Causes of Industrial Fires and Explosions.