Precautions for hot work operations

Unsupervised cutting, welding and other hot work operations have resulted in many large fire losses, as the heat source ignites combustible materials. To properly control the hazard, you need a ‘Cutting – Welding – Grinding Hot Work Permit Policy’.

The purpose of a ‘Cutting – Welding – Grinding Hot Work Permit Policy’ is to provide guidance on how to reduce the potential of fire loss to property and any consequential interruption of business operations resulting from hot work activities.

Cutting, welding and other hot work conducted by contractors should also be safely managed by use of the same permit system. Every contractor working at your facility should know your requirements in respect of credentials, experience and adherence to your hot work fire safety requirements. These requirements should also be written into any bid and/or contract documents entered into with contractors.

General guidelines on how to use the permit

  • A hot work log must be put in place and continuously updated. The log must reflect details of all current permits issued in order that the authorising person can monitor the completion of work and the timeous return of permits.
  • Whenever a permit is issued, it should be recorded in the log by the person who authorised it.
  • The log should be kept on file for review by your Old Mutual Insure risk surveyor during his/her next survey of the premises.
  • The person who authorised the permit should record the date, location where the work is to be done, and sign his/her name in the field “Permit Authorised By”.
  • The welder must provide his name and signature on the permit and also complete the precautions checklist and the fields applicable to “time started” and “time completed” when the work has been completed. Thereafter, the permit must be returned to the official who authorised it.
  • Should the permit not be returned at the end of the authorised time or the end of the work shift, the official who authorised the permit must investigate and determine the reasons why the permit was not returned and ensure that the permit is signed off.
  • The welder must provide his name and signature on the permit and also complete the precautions checklist and the fields applicable to “time started” and “time completed” when the work has been completed after which the permit must be returned to the official who authorized the permit.
  • Where additional work is necessary, a new permit should be issued.

General fire safety guidelines

  1. Perform hot work in a properly arranged maintenance shop except where the job cannot be moved into it.
  2. Use only equipment that is in good condition. Valves, regulators, hoses and torches should be thoroughly checked.
  3. Refrain from using welding, cutting or other hot work equipment in a building where sprinklers are out of service.
  4. Move combustibles at least 10m from hot work operations. If combustibles cannot be moved, they must be protected by metal guards or by flame proof curtains or covers rather than ordinary tarpaulins.
  5. Prohibit hot work in or on vessels containing flammable or combustible materials, including residues, until they have been completely cleaned and purged.
  6. Check the atmosphere for combustible gases or vapours where necessary, using reliable detection equipment. If there is a chance of a gas vapour release during hot work operations, continuous-duty portable, combustible gas detectors should be used to constantly monitor the area.
  7. Prohibit hot work until surrounding floors have been swept clean and if combustible, wet down.
  8. Prohibit hot work until all wall and floor openings within 10m of the operations have been tightly covered or otherwise protected with metal guards or flame proofed tarpaulins.
  9. Prohibit hot work until responsible persons have been assigned to watch for dangerous sparks in the area and on floors above and below.
  10. Secure gas cutting and welding cylinders on purpose-built rigs and replace protective caps on all cylinders not in use.
  11. Carefully connect the ground clamp when using electrical arc welding equipment. As a loose ground clamp can be a source of ignition, the clamp should be connected as close to the work as possible so that it may be easily observed.
  12. Arrange for a patrol of the area, including floors above and below, during any break in the work, such as lunch or rest periods, and for at least one hour after the work has been completed. If the hot work ends near the end of a shift change, arrangements should be made for the patrols to continue into the next shift.
  13. Use portable stands to elevate welding gas hoses or electrical cables off floor areas where they could be exposed to physical damage.
  14. Prohibit hot work until a permit is obtained from the person authorised to issue such a document.
  15. A hot work permit may not be issued for a period longer than one shift or one working day, whichever is the lesser?
  16. Always evaluate the decision to perform hot work. The first step of the hot work management process is to determine whether the hazard can be avoided or minimized. Avoid hot work in high risk areas if at all possible.
  17. Contractors may not commence with any work until such time as they have attended a fire safety induction course.
  18. Contractors must be supervised by a competent official when conducting hot work.

To download a template of a ‘Cutting, welding & grinding permit’, please click here.

This article was first published by Old Mutual Insure, an Authorised Financial Services Provider (FSP 12).