In this article we will be having a deep learning on Hot Work. Lets us explain what it is;
What Is Hot Work
It refers to any work that requires using open flames, applying heat or friction which may generate sparks or heat.
It is a process that can be a source of ignition when flammable material is present or can be a fire hazard regardless of the presence of flammable material in the workplace. Common hot work processes involve welding, soldering, cutting, brazing burning and the use of powder-actuated tools or similar fire producing operations outside of designated hot work areas.
However, when flammable materials are not present, industrial processes such as grinding and drilling become cold work processes.
Hot work can create significant health and safety hazards that put workers, those around them, and the premises itself in danger. It can be direct, e.g. the equipment or tool creates a flame. Other times it may be indirect, e.g. using an abrasive wheel to cut metal produces sparks.
Employers have a legal duty to ensure that risks in their workplace are assessed, controlled and monitored so that their employees remain safe from harm – including those from hot work. Employers must identify the hazards in their workplace and implement suitable controls to reduce the risks to as low as is reasonably practicable.
HSE defines it as the: ‘Use of open fires, flames and work involving the application of heat by means of tools or equipment.
Types Of Hot Work
- Welding, brazing, and soldering.
- Grinding and cutting.
- Thawing pipes.
- The use of open flames, blow-lamps, and torches.
- Using bitumen and tar boilers.
- The use of hot air blowers and lead heaters.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it does include the most common examples of hot work. All hot work can pose significant health and safety risks when carried out without proper controls.
All types of hot work are fire hazards irrespective of presence of any flammable material in the vicinity. Examples of potential hazardous areas are well heads, fuel tanks, mud tanks, tank batteries, gas separators, oil treating equipment or devices and confined spaces. A hot work permit is required for maintenance operations involving cutting, welding, brazing, soldering, grinding and open flames in any area. It is necessary to test for the presence of flammable gases in the work area before starting any hot work.
The tools associated with the hot work include electric, oxyacetylene, laser or similar welding or cutting equipment, grinders, gas torches or blow lamps for brazing, soldering, thawing pipes, torch applied flooring or roofing materials or removal of any materials. The hot work permit system is utilized to ensure that the individuals performing the work are aware of the hazards associated with hot work and that they implement control measures to help mitigate risks. The hot work permit also provides a step by step check list for hot work and a reminder to employers and workers of their fire prevention responsibilities.
Fire Hazards Posed By Hot Work
- Flying sparks: This is the main risk posed by hot work. Sparks can easily get trapped in cracks, pipes, gaps, holes, and other small openings, where it will potentially smoulder and start a fire.
- Flammable swarf, molten metals, slag, cinder, and filings: The debris and residue that hot work creates are often highly combustible and/or hot.
- Heat conduction when working on pipes: Hot work can cause a pipe to heat up substantially and this heat can easily transfer through the process of conduction to another, potentially flammable surface and cause a fire.
- Hot surfaces: If you don’t properly remove flammable materials or substances from the area before you start hot work, they could come into contact with a surface that has become hot during the work and easily start a fire.
- Explosive atmospheres: In certain environments, there may be vapours or gases in the air that are highly combustible and could ignite when exposed to hot work. Similarly, the hot work could generate fumes that create an explosive atmosphere.
In some countries, such as the UK and Canada, a hot work permit is required for hot work. The purpose of a hot work permit is to effect “the employer’s written authorization to perform hot working operations”. The UK’s Health and Safety Executive suggests that a hot work permit should specify:
- What work will be done;
- How and when it is to be done;
- What safety and health precautions are needed;
- Who is responsible for checking it is safe for the work to start;
- Who will check that the work is done safely;
- Who is responsible for confirming that work is complete and there is no longer a risk from, or to, the people doing the work.
Hot Work Regulations
In the United States, OSHA maintains regulations for hot work in the marine industrial setting. The following regulations apply:
- Hot Work. – 1915.14
- Welding, cutting and heating (hot work). – 1917.152
- Precautions for hot work. – 1915.503
Other relevant literature is:
- API RP 2009 : Safe Welding, Cutting, and Hot Work Practices in the Petroleum and Petrochemical Industries, published by the American Petroleum Institute (API).
Controlling Hot Work
Employers have a legal duty to ensure that risks in their workplace are assessed, controlled and monitored so that their employees remain safe from harm, including the risks from hot work activities. Control methods must be selected in line with the hierarchy of control which is outlined below:
- Elimination – Elimination means to avoid carrying out hot work activities. This can be done through a number of ways. For example, if a tank requires hot work to repair it, completely replacing the tank instead of repairing it.
- Substitution – The second step in the hierarchy involves substituting for a safer or less hazardous alternative, such as using cold cutting or cold repair methods rather than hot work.
- Engineering controls – This involves using physical solutions to reduce risks, such as using general mechanical ventilation (ducted air with fans) or local exhaust ventilation (to remove fumes from the point of origin).
- Administrative controls – This involves altering the way the activity is undertaken to make it safer, e.g. the use of safe systems of work, permit-to-work systems and training.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – The final stage of the hierarchy of control is the use of PPE to reduce any residual risks. Examples of PPE include respiratory protective equipment (RPE), hearing protection, eye protection and anti-static clothing and boots. PPE must only ever be used as a last resort and only when all other stages in the hierarchy of control have been considered.
Hot job needs to be controlled, not just during the activity, but before and after as well. Every workplace is different, and a risk assessment should be carried out to check if it is safe to carry out hot work in the environment. Consider what other work is being carried out in the workplace, the presence of flammable substances, the training of the operative and the condition of the equipment.
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A hot works permit should be used as a further control measure, especially in workplaces not designed for hot works. For example, when hot work is carried out during a construction project or as part of maintenance work. This will ensure a series of checks are made before authorising any hot work to start.
A careful assessment of the work area should look to identify and remove or cover any combustible materials. This could be floor coverings, fixtures or fittings. Look for gaps in the floor or walls, where sparks could escape into other areas. There should be no flammable substances (in liquid or vapour form) where hot works are taking place. Dust can also create flammable atmospheres and increase the risk when completing hot work.
After hot work is finished, the risk hasn’t gone. Fires can take a while to start, and sparks can remain burning for sometime after you are done. A fire watch is an important precaution to take once hot work is completed. The fire watch is usually carried out for 60 minutes after the work is done, depending on the type of hot works. Never sign off a hot work permit until the fire watch has been carried out.
Here are some cardinal things you should do when hot work is involved:
Before hot work:
- Check equipment
- Check operative has suitable training and competence
- Check suitable fire extinguishers and extinguishing media present
- Remove or cover combustible materials
- Remove flammable substances
During hot work:
- Keep fire fighting equipment in an accessible location
- Ensure and maintain suitable ventilation
- Use insulating bases where necessary
- Use non-combustible screens to contain sparks
- Remove empty cylinders when used
After hot work:
- Remove equipment to safe storage
- Carry out fire watch for the duration specified in risk assessment and/or hot works permit
Some work areas are especially high risk for hot works. Like confined spaces, or places where flammable substances are or have been stored. It’s always worth looking at alternative options before planning hot work.
Hot Work Permit
A permit-to-work system is a written procedure to ensure that specific work activities are adhered to. Key information about permit-to-work systems is outlined below:
- A permit-to-work is a document created to control and communicate the key control measures that are needed for work activities where hazards are increased due to the work to be undertaken or by the nature of the location where the work is being carried out. Permits-to-work form part of the safe system of work for those more hazardous work activities.
- The main purposes of a permit-to-work is to act as a single communication tool for a specific and time-bound activity that can cause increased hazards and risks if the additional controls and checks are not included.
- A permit-to-work is a formal written system that makes up part of the risk assessment process and contributes to the safe system of work. It is not a replacement for either of them.
- Only a competent person in a position of authority, for example, a senior manager, can decide whether a permit-to-work is required.
- Where a permit-to-work is needed, it must only be completed by a competent person in authority, such as an experienced supervisor, consulting specialist advice where necessary, and must be signed off by the competent person in charge of the work. The permit-to-work is a suitable way to record authorisations, document findings, and to permit work to proceed.
- A permit-to-work must be specific to the work being carried out and the environment where it is being undertaken. Once the work activity has been finished, the permit-to-work must be cancelled in writing by the senior manager and supervisor, and a new assessment undertaken for any new work activities.
- Anyone carrying out work must be fully informed and instructed in the risk assessment, safe systems of work and the permit-to-work before any work is carried out.
It is essential to note that a permit-to-work, alone, does not make a work activity safe. It is an extension of the safe system of work and must not be used as a replacement.
What Information Does A Work Permit Cover?
As previously mentioned, a permit-to-work system is a written procedure to ensure that specific work activities are adhered to. A permit-to-work will usually contain the following information:
- Permit title
- Permit reference, including other relevant permits to work.
- Job location. This must include a clear and accurate description of the area in which the work will be undertaken.
- Date and duration of permit. It’s important to note that a new permit will normally be required for different work shifts.
- Plant or equipment to be worked on. This should include the specific identification number or location where the work will be undertaken.
- Description of work to be done. This section should include sufficient detail to clearly identify the work being done.
- Hazard identification, including detailed information on the hazards arising from the work and other associated hazards, for example, work at height.
- Precautions required, for example, safe equipment, isolation of power required and by whom, etc.
- Emergency arrangements, for example, requirements for firefighting and rescue, details of rescue equipment, etc.
- Monitoring equipment, for example, air monitoring.
- Details of PPE required for the work.
- A signature from the issuing authority, such as a/the manager, to confirm that isolations have been made and precautions taken.
- A signature from the supervisor of the work, to confirm understanding of the work to be done, hazards involved and precautions required, and that the permit information has been explained to all permit users.
- Extension and shift handover: The signatures of the authorising authority, manager, and supervisor for the permit to confirm the necessary checks have been made to ensure that the plant remains safe to be worked on and that all precautions remain in place. The new supervisors’ signature is also needed to confirm acceptance and confirm that the permit information has been explained to all permit users.
- Hand-back: A signature from the supervisor of the work certifying the work has been completed and the area has been made safe, including any required tests.
- A signature from the manager to confirm that the permit has been cancelled, all work under the permit has been completed and the area is safe.
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After avoiding the risks associated with hot work and implementing safe systems of work, it’s important to set up and maintain any necessary emergency arrangements. Emergency arrangements must be well planned and set out by a competent person, and must be appropriate to the hazards generated by the specific work activities and environment.
Emergency arrangements must make up part of the risk assessment process and safe systems of work – no work should be commenced until the appropriate emergency arrangements are enforced. The complexity of the emergency arrangements will depend on the specific hazards identified.
Essential components to consider when deciding on emergency arrangements include:
- Raising the alarm. Employees must understand how to raise an alarm and communicate effectively during an emergency rescue. An effective, reliable method of communication that is regularly tested before work is commenced must be in place.
- Where deemed necessary by the risk assessment, suitable rescue and resuscitation equipment must be provided and those required to use it must be competent and fully trained.
- Safeguarding any rescuers. All rescuers must be competent in their duties, they must understand their role, be contactable and readily available at all times when on rescue duty and must understand that they should never put themselves at risk to enact a rescue. All emergency rescuers must be provided with the information, instruction and training necessary to ensure they are competent in their duties.
- Hot job pose a very significant risk of fires and explosions which must be assessed and suitable precautions taken. It’s important to consider all the hazards in the work environment and posed by the work activities and ensure that firefighting methods do not pose any additional risks – such as displacing oxygen in confined spaces.
- Whether plant may need to be shut down in the event of an emergency. For example, because the plant is the cause of an emergency or it is not possible to carry out an emergency rescue without plant shut down.
- Suitable first aid arrangements are in place.
- Arrangements for contacting and working with the emergency services in the event of an emergency. Employers must not rely on emergency services alone when setting out emergency arrangements. However, it’s important to consider how the emergency services would be informed in the event of an emergency, who is responsible for contacting them, and what information they might need on their arrival to ensure they can carry out their duties safely.