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Loss Control Insights

Six Strategies to Reduce Hotwork Losses

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If EMC Engineer Neil Wysocki had his way, all hotwork would be done in designated areas. “Without a doubt, a designated area for hotwork would significantly reduce the likelihood of a fire,” notes Wysocki. Figures from a study conducted by the National Fire Protection Association support Wyscoki’s point–torch, soldering and welding equipment is responsible for an average of 3,165 fires, eight deaths and 116 injuries per year.

Unfortunately, many hotwork jobs cannot be completed in designated areas. These jobs can include cutting metal containers and drums, repairing large machinery, renovating office or warehouse spaces and working on ductwork to install a roof cover system. Implementing certain procedures and taking the necessary precautions when doing hotwork in non-designated areas can reduce the likelihood of fire, personal injury and other losses associated with this type of work. Wysocki recommends the following six strategies to keep workers and facilities safe when doing hotwork in non-designated areas.

  1. Avoid Hotwork if Possible

    Before beginning work, decide if the hotwork really needs to be completed outside a designated area. If possible, move the work to a designated area or outdoors.
  2. Establish a Work Permit System

    A hotwork permit system ensures adequate controls and safety precautions are used in non-designated hotwork areas. Hotwork permits are required for any hotwork operations performed outside of a designated area. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety offers the following guidelines for an effective work permit system:
    • The hotwork permit itself should be used as a checklist to confirm that proper safety precautions are taken.
    • Hotwork permits should be printed on a highly visible color of paper (e.g., bright pink or orange) and posted in a prominent location in the work area.
    • A hotwork permit program can be created and easily implemented at any size business. It takes a minimal amount of staff, money and time. Most importantly, taking these very small steps can prevent significant property damage and business interruption. You can obtain additional hotwork permit information and sample hotwork permits in EMC’s safety program template for hotwork.

  3. Train Employees on Hotwork Safety Procedures

    At a minimum, employees and supervisors must be aware that the following precautions need to be met to perform hotwork in a non-designated area:
    • Building fire sprinkler system must be operational at the hotwork location (if applicable).
    • All combustible materials within 35 feet of the hotwork must be moved to a safe distance or other location.
    • If combustible materials cannot be moved, they need to be protected by covers or shielded with fire retardant or metal guards.
    • Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) must be provided to employees performing hotwork.
    • A fire watch must be initiated during and for 30 minutes after all hotwork has stopped.
    • The hotwork approver must inspect the hotwork area prior to beginning work.
    • The hotwork approver must issue and post a hotwork permit.
    Where any of the following conditions exist, additional precautions are recommended above the basic precautions:
    • Floor openings/Coverings–All combustible floors or materials on the floor, floor openings or cracks must be protected from exposure to flames, sparks, slag or other hot materials.
    • Wall openings–All combustible walls, wall openings, pipe penetrations or ducts must be protected from exposure to flames, sparks, slag or other hot materials.
    • Potentially explosive atmospheres–If there is flammable gases, vapors, liquids or dust in the air, no hotwork should be conducted until air monitoring has confirmed that there is no danger of an explosion.
    • Containers–No hotwork should be performed on used drums, barrels, tanks or other containers until they have been cleaned.
  4. Dress for Hotwork

    Whether in designated or non-designated areas, employees should not begin any hotwork without obtaining and wearing the required PPE. EMC recommends the following PPE when completing any welding, cutting, heating or brazing:
    • Eye and face protection—Helmet with filter lens and cover plate that complies with ANSI Z87.1 and safety glasses with side shield under helmet.
    • Head and ear protection—Fire-resistant welder’s cap under helmet and approved earplugs or muffs.
    • Foot protection—Leather, steel-toed, high-topped boots in good condition that meet the requirements of ASTM F2412 and ASTM F2413. Pants should have no cuffs and should be worn over the tops of the boots.
    • Hand protection—Dry, hole-free, insulated and flame-resistant welding gloves.
    • Body protection—Oil-free protective clothing made of wool or heavy cotton. Clothing should allow for freedom of movement and should prevent skin exposure. Leather aprons, leggings, capes and sleeves should be worn as needed.
  5. Designate a Fire Watch

    A fire watch is a designated employee who monitors the hotwork area for fires while work is being performed and for 60 minutes after its completion. Duties of the fire watch personnel include:
    • Monitoring adjacent areas for fires
    • Extinguishing small, controllable fires with extinguishing equipment available in hotwork area
    • Activating fire alarm if an uncontrollable fire occurs
    • Signing the hotwork permit 60 minutes after the work is complete and reposting signed permit in hotwork area
    • After the hotwork and mandatory 30-minute monitoring period is complete, periodically returning to the area for three hours where the hotwork was completed to check for fires
    • Ensuring that the supervisor has conducted a final inspection after the fire watch period has concluded and signs off on the permit
  6. Communicate Your Hotwork Policies With Contractors

    Whenever outside contractors perform any hotwork activity, they must be informed of the hotwork program and procedures before work begins. In addition, all outside personnel are required to obtain a hotwork permit before proceeding.

Hotwork Resources
Whether you’re a retailer or wholesaler, a contractor or manufacturer, chances are your operation will require some type of hotwork. The best way to handle the job is with a designated hotwork area. The second best option is to make any area as safe as possible by implementing the six strategies outlined in this article. For additional information, check out EMC's fire prevention loss control topic page.

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