“Hot work” uses heat in a manufacturing process or as part of specific activities. Some people work with heat consistently and there are safeguards in place to protect against fire and flame.
But that’s not hot work as it’s defined by the loss control and safety specialists at Hastings Mutual. Instead, “hot work” describes work that produces heat or sparks and takes place outside of the controls found in normal work areas. Common types of hot work by this definition include:
Hot work, if not managed properly, can lead to property damage, injury, and worse if a fire isn’t kept under control at all times and isn’t completely extinguished when the work is done.
Basic guidelines for hot work are probably a good idea for any kind of activity near a fire, like keeping flammable items several feet away, having up-to-date smoke alarms and fire extinguishers appropriately located in the building, and cleaning up the area near where the heat will be before work begins. An extra degree of caution is appropriate in manufacturing plants, laboratories, and other places with a lot of potentially hazardous, even toxic, materials.
In fact, hot work shouldn’t be done at all in buildings where the fire detection and/or sprinkler systems aren’t working, or if there are liquids, gases, or other material that could cause an explosion.
Staying several feet away from the source of flame, and having water or another method of dousing a fire are good general rules for any hot area. But there are detailed, specific rules for what is officially recognized as hot work, and how to manage it.
We use a checklist created by the National Fire Protection Association. It describes nearly two dozen conditions that need to be met before hot work can take place. A permit authorizing individual (PAI). The PAI, as the title suggests, controls a hot work situation, including confirming that the area is secure and set up for hot work, and monitoring who can be in the area where the work is being done. The PAI is the one who checks “Yes” or “No” on the checklist.
The checklist includes several categories. Below are a few examples of what you should look out for, but make sure you review the full checklist and get approval from the PAI before beginning work.
Keep the area clear of flammable material. Cover ducts, vents, or any other opening that can carry sparks to other parts of the facility.
Flames will spread easily along walls and ceilings made of combustible material. Remove it or cover it up as much as possible.
Enclosed equipment includes storage tanks and dust bins — things that can catch fire or even explode. Make sure they’re empty and secured before starting hot work.
There’s more to this than simply having a fire extinguisher on hand. Trained fire prevention staff need to be available during the hot work period and for at least 30 minutes after it’s complete.
Since every hot work situation is unique, each one needs its own safety measures in place. Electrical shock can be a risk; ventilation is needed in some places, and personal protective equipment (PPE) might also be necessary.
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