Among the most common reasons small to mid-size industrial properties make insurance claims? Losses from hot work.
“Hot work” refers to any work with ignition sources near flammable materials. Types of hot work involve welding, soldering, and cutting and often produce sparks. And the result of a “quick job” in an area not designed for welding or cutting is often fire.
One of the leading causes of fire in Canada for small to mid-size industrial and commercial operations and one of the top three causes of significant property losses? Hot work. A hot work management program, however, can help reduce the risk of fire hazards by welding, soldering, and other hot work.
Mitigate losses – a hot work management plan
When you take the time to design a hot work management plan, you help to reduce significantly or even eliminate hot work hazards and risks. Plans include policy development, procedures, and assigning responsibilities for all facets of hot work, including accountability. A management plan includes:
- Establish policies:
- WHERE hot work can occur
- WHEN hot work can’t occur
- WHO performs, authorizes, and monitors hot work
- Identify procedures:
- Assessments to perform before permitting/performing hot work
- Preparation procedures for any hot work area
- If you can’t avoid hot work, detail how to do it. Particularly in areas that might be hazardous
- List required tools for hot work
- Hot work permit – How to get one, when to get one, and who can administer it
- Train all relevant personnel – management and employees
- Supervisors, employees, maintenance workers, individuals who work fire watch, fire crews, and contractors all have different roles, trained accordingly
- Communicating the management plan
- Post procedures in a highly visible place
- Post policies in a highly visible place
- Post signage in areas where you do NOT permit hot work
- Establish policies:
Obtain a hot work permit
You can significantly reduce the hazards of hot work with a permit. A two-part tag system, the permit requires whoever performs hot work to complete a safety checklist before they begin any hot work in areas not designated for hot work. Attach one portion of the two-part tag near the work area until the fire watch is complete. Management keeps the other portion of the permit for records, audited by management.
The permit system ensures the individual performing the hot work follows the appropriate safety protocols. It requires they sign off on a checklist before working and after the fire watch is complete. A hot work permit is available for purchase from most retailers of safety supplies.
To help prevent damage and losses from hot work, ensure that, in addition to your standard hot work procedures, ask the following questions before work begins:
- Is all equipment in good operating order?
- Are all appropriate personal protective devices readily available at the site?
- Have you trained each worker properly on how to use, clean, and store protective equipment properly?
- Has someone thoroughly inspected the work area? Are there combustible materials in nearby structures (walls, ceilings, partitions)?
- Has someone moved all flammable and combustible materials away from the work area?
- Can you move combustibles? If not, can you cover them with fire-resistant blankets or shields?
- Have you protected gas lines from hot materials, falling sparks, and other objects?
- Have combustible materials such as sawdust been swept clean around the work zone? If the floors are combustible, keep them wet or covered with fire-resistant blankets or damp sand.
- Are the appropriate fire extinguishers (e.g., ABC fire extinguishers) available and easily accessible?
- Find out more hot work best practices HERE.
Establish a fire watch schedule
A vital component of any hot work management plan is a fire watch. Once the hot work – welding, soldering, grinding, or any other activity that produces heat and sparks – is complete, you MUST conduct a fire watch.
Ensure that no hidden spark or fire has been left that might smoulder or ignite at some point after the hot work is complete. Potentially catastrophic consequences could occur if you miss or skip a fire inspection after the work is done. You might have to pay a properly trained employee to stay longer to inspect and watch the area. But, it’s a worthwhile expense, as many victims of hot work damages and losses will attest.
If you’re unable to afford the extra eyes for an after-hours fire watch, try to limit any hot work to earlier in the day. So, if there are sparks smouldering, they’re caught during the business day. It’s recommended that you keep an eye on the area for up to four hours after the work is complete.
Be sure that your hot work management plan includes ALL hot work activities no matter who performs them, your staff or third-party contractors. Look at your safety policies and be sure that they include hot work. It doesn’t need to be complicated! Simply a page or two will do, outlining specific safety policies and procedures required to conduct hot work.