For our first issue of "Ask The Fire Inspector", we will tackle a question that comes up very often: Do I need a hot works program?
By calling it a program it sounds complicated: as if it will require substantial planning and be onerous to manage.
First, the bad news. It does take a bit of work to setup and manage. The good news is that it's worth it! Over 2400 non-home fires start each year in the US because of some form of hot work. That is a statistic you cannot afford to ignore.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Food Processing
While an employee was using an oxyacetylene cutting torch to modify a bracket in a boiler room, hot slag ignited canvas and plywood that were being used as a temporary covering over a hole in the wall between the fire-resistive boiler room and the storage room. Fire then spread to waxed cartons and plastic bags in the storage room. Loss was $650,000.
What Is Hot Work?
Hot work 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."
Examples of hot work include welding, soldering, cutting, and brazing. If flammable materials are present, grinding and drilling are also hot work processes.
When we talk about hot work hazards, we are specifically not talking about welding shops, workshops, etc. Those areas should already be designated and designed to be safe for hot work. Instead, we are talking about everyday residential and commercial areas that may be subject to occasional work, for plumbing, roofing, or other repairs and renovations.
When possible, hot work operations should be carried out in a designated area designed or approved for hot work, such as an area of non combustible or fire resistive construction essentially free of combustibles. When conducting the work in a safe location is not possible, an alternative method of completing the work should be considered. For example, The Canadian Centre For Occupational Health And Safety suggests:
|Saw or torch cutting||Manual hydraulic shears|
|Sweat soldering||Screwed or flanged pipe|
|Torch of radial saw cutting||Mechanical pipe cutter|
When an alternative method or location cannot be found, then a hot work permit and fire watch are usually required.
Hot Work Program
A hot work program is simply a set of standard policies and procedures that an organization uses to manage hot work projects. The program determines policies for:
- Where and when are hot work allowed?
- What information is captured on the hot work permit? Who approves the work and signs the permit?
- Who ensures that a fire watch is conducted? What training and equipment are required for the fire watch?
- How are areas prepared and cleaned before hot works begin?
- What training procedures are required for staff or contractors conducting hot work?
- How will information about hot work be stored and posted. How will contractors and staff know the details of the hot work program?
Hot Work Permit
If hot work is to be carried out in an area not designed for it, a hot work permit should be requested. The permit application should be reviewed and approved or denied by someone at the facility with a fire safety authority.
See the Further Resources section below for a free link to the hot works permit we include in all of our fire safety plans.
A fire watch is the process of putting a person or persons with appropriate training in place to monitor the hot work and to stop it if it becomes unsafe. The fire watch monitors both hazards and actual fire development. If a small fire starts, it is the fire watch's responsibility to quickly extinguish it. A fire watcher should be trained in fire hazard awareness, the building's emergency procedures, and in fire extinguisher selection and use.
The fire watch must be provided during the hot works and for a period of not less than 60 minutes after its completion. A final inspection of the hot work area must be conducted 4 hours after completion of the work. At least one portable fire extinguisher must be provided in the hot work area and the fire watch personnel must be trained in the use of fire extinguishing equipment. All previously covered openings in walls, floors and ceilings should be examined for ignition of combustible materials.
A fire watch log should be maintained and stored for two years after all hot work. See the Further Resources section below for a sample fire watch log form.
NFPA provides a full document  that describes the requirements for a hot work program. We also provide full details and procedures for a hot works program and a site-specific hot works permit with all of our fire safety plans.
Fire Plan Strategies Free Downloads
The following downloads are released under a Creative Commons license described in very simple terms here. Basically, you are free to use and distribute these, but you may not adapt, change, build on them, and you cannot sell them.
 Hall Jr., John. “Non-Home Structure Fires by Equipment Involved in Ignition.” National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), February 2012. http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/os.non-homefireequipment.pdf.
 Wikipedia Article. “Hot Work". Retrieved Sept 2, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_work
 Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. “Welding - Hot Work". Retrieved May 13, 2012.http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/welding/hotwork.html
 National Fire Protection Association. NFPA Standard 51B, "Fire Prevention in Use of Cutting and Welding Processes". 2009 Edition. http://www.nfpa.org/aboutthecodes/AboutTheCodes.asp?DocNum=51B
 Winnipeg Fire Department - Fire Prevention Branch. "Hot Works Brochure". Retrieved June 2012. http://www.winnipeg.ca/fps/Services/Fire%20Prevention/Regulations/Hot%20Works%20Brochure%20Revised.pdf