You may be thinking, “Leave it to an insurance guy to write about Hot Work at the start of winter.” However, I hope you learn something about different types of Hot Work here. We’re not talking about the kind of heat which farmers are so used to, like toiling in the fields in summer, or loggers in the woods, or even like construction workers in buildings that will be nicely air conditioned after they have left. I’m writing about Hot Work which involves open flame, heat or sparks.
At this time of year, maintenance buildings or shop areas, which were once spacious and open in the summer and safe for torch cutting or resistance welding, are now full of materials, trucks and equipment stored for the winter. Vehicles and equipment that ran and worked hard these past nine months are in need of TLC and are gathered together under cover. It’s the time to upgrade and prep equipment for next season, so grinders, torches and welders can see a lot of use during winter maintenance season.
The Dangers of Hot Work in Winter
Unfortunately, the combination of congestion, cold temperatures and Hot Work can lead to severe consequences. Think of the environment—when equipment and values are concentrated in one space, and there are fuel, fluids and oils stockpiled for winter maintenance. The temperatures can be too cold to stay and watch for smoldering material, and water hoses that are out during warm weather are put away for winter. Additionally, ponds that were available for firefighting water in the summer are now frozen. Now imagine the damage a fire could cause to your property concentrated in this single location. Don’t take chances on this potential loss scenario. What can you do to prevent Hot Work fires during this vulnerable season?
Review Acadia’s Hot Work Permit
Take a few moments to review Acadia’s Hot Work Permit. This permit is used to help safeguard against fires due to Hot Work outside of designated welding areas, at any time, in manufacturing facilities. However, precautions are also important when combustibles, fluids and oils are introduced into the formerly safe welding area, or doing Hot Work on vehicles and equipment that contain fuel, hydraulic, hoses, plastics and other combustible trim. In all cases, it’s good to be familiar with the instructions and precautions listed and to avoid complacency, even when working in designated areas in case conditions change.
Managing Your Hot Work Risk
First and foremost, consider safer ways to make the repair without Hot Work; elimination of the hazard is always best. If Hot Work can’t be avoided, consider if it can be relocated to the safest designated welding area, or to a safe area outside. Where provided, make sure automatic fire sprinkler systems and alarms are available and in service (though you may need to temporarily cover or switch off smoke detectors near Hot Work). If there’s no alarm system nearby, have a radio or cell phone available to initiate response.
Inside garage or shop areas, could the vehicle or equipment be moved outside for the Hot Work? Consider whether other nearby equipment could be moved away or outside to reduce the total equipment exposed. Make sure nothing is blocking the vehicle inside the building or outside the door and be prepared to push equipment outside if a fire starts.
Outside designated areas, use a Fire Watch and don’t weld after noon. Schedule your necessary Hot Work in the morning when there will be people around for a full shift. Many Hot Work fires ignite hours after the work is completed, when hot slag or hot material smolders and then ignites.
When contractors are performing work on your premises, don’t let them perform Hot Work without proper controls and supervision. They should have a Hot Work Permit System that is equivalent or better than yours. Acadia also recommends you verify their experience and qualifications, confirm insurance coverage with limits equal to or exceeding your own, be named an Additional Insured on their policy, and have written contractual agreements which include Hold Harmless and Indemnification Agreements in your favor. You should consult your insurance agent and legal counsel about what risk management protection from the activities of others is appropriate for your individual and specific circumstances.
ELIMINATE Hot Work Fires
In conclusion, for fire prevention purposes, Hot Work is a process that involves welding, burning or cutting. Take precautions, and use a Hot Work Permit, to help eliminate Hot Work fires. Even before starting a written permit, here’s a mental checklist to help ELIMINATE Hot Work fires on your premises:
Eliminate Hot Work by using safer methods.
Locate Hot Work in a safe area. Relocate to a safe outside area whenever possible.
Inspect area using a Permit checklist for work outside designated safe areas. Inspect equipment to ensure it is proper and in good working order.
Move flammables and remove or cover combustibles from the area.
Inform outside contractors about your safe Hot Work procedures. Obtain information on their qualification experience and financial responsibility, such as Certificates of Insurance, plus Hold Harmless and Indemnification Agreements for major, regular or on-going work on your premises.
Notify and post a Fire Watch when conditions might result in more than a minor fire. The Fire Watch or Hot Work operator must have a means to notify emergency help during the work, and watch for at least a half hour after the work.
Avoid work after noon, or when fire sprinkler systems are impaired.
Take fire extinguisher(s), hoses, and water pails to the site. Check that hydrants, ponds or other water supplies are available and working.
Examine the hot work site and complete a final inspection by a Hot Work Supervisor.
For more detailed loss control information, please consult NFPA 51B – Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work.
For farm operations, the National Ag Safety Database, includes a safety resource on Arc Welding Safety
Editor’s Note: On November 16th, 2012, two workers were killed, and four more were injured, as result of a fire and explosion on the Black Elk Energy Oil Rig, in the Gulf of Mexico due to Hot Work welding on a pipe.
Acadia is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness. Distribution of this information does not constitute an assumption by us of your obligations to provide a safe workplace. Maintaining a safe workplace in accordance with all laws is your responsibility. We make no representation or warranty that our activities or recommendations will place you in compliance with law, relieve you of potential liability or ensure your premises or operations are safe. We exercise no control over your premises or operations and have no responsibility or authority to implement loss prevention practices or procedures.