The Safe Guide-to Hot Work

Most small businesses such as retail shops, office buildings, medical offices, apartment complexes, grocery stores and multi-tenant facilities will at one point have a work order that requires hot work operations. And if not done carefully and in the designated areas, hot work can often lead to fires.

Hot work operations include but are not limited to: soldering, welding, metal cutting, heat treating, grinding, thawing pipes, hot riveting, torch applied roofing, and any other application involving heat, sparks, or flames. Some common hot work operation examples that may be encountered in these types of occupancies include:

  • Thawing/sweating of air conditioning lines or frozen pipes
  • Installation or repairs of air conditioning equipment including piping and ventilation ducts
  • Work on kitchen ductwork
  • Plumbers working on metal piping
  • Installing a roof cover system
  • Various renovations of office, retail, or warehouse spaces
  • Work involving metal partitions
  • Renovations including shelving and storage racks
  • Renovations of various metal structures including mezzanines, railings, catwalks, stairs, fences
  • Cutting of metal containers and drums

Naturally, the chance of fire increases any time an ignition source is introduced into areas that are not designated hot work areas. Unfortunately, many small businesses typically do not have the expertise to oversee hot work operations. It therefore usually makes sense to look for alternative ways to complete the work that does not require heat sparks or flames. Similarly, if possible, it’s important to have the hot work operations conducted offsite or outside (at least 35 ft. away from the building and combustible materials).

The 411 on the Hot Work Permitting Process

Often, hot work is necessary and must be conducted on equipment that is not portable. Therefore, proper precautions should be taken prior to, during, and after the work is completed. Implementing a hot work permit program can help small businesses manage this process and greatly reduce the chance of a fire.

Hot work permit programs are designed to prevent fires through proper authorization, supervision, and control of temporary hot work operations conducted by employees and contractors outside of a designated hot work area. They create checks and balances that involve personnel that do not conduct the actual hot work operation. The hot work permit itself should be used as a checklist to confirm that proper safety precautions are being taken. Hot work permits should be required for any hot work operations performed outside of a designated hot work area and by anyone at the site. It should also be kept at the area where the operations are taking place and retained for future reference. A hot work permit program can also be created and easily implemented at any size business. It takes a minimal amount of staff, money, and time, while also being easy to follow. Most importantly, taking these very small steps can prevent significant property damage and business interruption. Start by designating a person that oversees the program, such as a safety supervisor or manager. Then, assign them the following responsibilities.

Safety Supervisor:

  • Management of safe hot work operations
  • Ensures that all other alternatives to hot work have been explored
  • Verifies that the fire alarm system and fire protection system, such as the overhead sprinkler system, are in full operation
  • Inspects the area where the hot work is to take place and verifies the safety precautions to be taken by the operator through the use of the hot work permit checklist

Hot Work Operator:

  • Must obtain a permit before any work begins
  • Be well trained in the equipment they are using
  • Ensures that all equipment is in good working condition » Incorporates proper safety precautions described in the hot work permit
  • Trained in the use of fire extinguishers and has one on hand
  • Keeps the hot work permit visible during operations Fire watch person
  • Must obtain a permit before any work begins
  • Be well trained in the equipment they are using
  • Ensures that all equipment is in good working condition
  • Incorporates proper safety precautions described in the hot work permit
  • Trained in the use of fire extinguishers and has one on hand
  • Keeps the hot work permit visible during operations
  • Can perform other duties in that area as long

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