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Hot work risk management – a checklist

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By Nick Harman | January 14, 2021

In the second piece in our series on hot work risk management, we take a closer look at hot work permits.

Part one of our series on hot work risk management focused on risk management protocols, given that construction sites are increasingly being targeted by insurers for the management of these risks, resulting in coverage exclusions and conditions being applied.

This article helps you with some practical steps to minimise the likelihood of an insurer viewing your construction site as a heightened risk of fire by ensuring you have appropriate hot work permit procedures in place.

Permits will be needed for anyone at the site, whether they are employees or contractors who are undertaking Hot Works. Trained staff should be assigned tasks under the following categories.

Permit Authorising Individual (PAI)

  • Is a supervisory-level company employee (not a contractor).
  • Has overall responsibility for proper implementation and management of the hot work program.
  • Issues hot work permits after adequately assessing the risks in the proposed work area.
  • Completes final inspection of hot work area to ensure it is safe and gives the final sign-off of the hot work permit.

Hot Work Operator

  • Is properly trained in the safe use of hot work equipment and the associated hazards.
  • Verifies hot work equipment is in good operating condition.
  • Works with the PAI to follow the established hot work procedures.
  • Restricts use of hot work to the stated conditions and areas only.
  • Leaves the hot work area in a safe condition after work is completed.

Fire Watch

  • Watches for any stray sparks, smouldering fires, or other fire hazards and is ready to provide the initial fire response.
  • Has a portable fire extinguisher and/or fire hose readily available and is adequately trained in its use.
  • Works with the hot work operator to ensure safe conditions are maintained during and after hot work.
  • Has the authority to stop work if unsafe conditions develop.
  • Is completely familiar with site-specific fire alarm locations and emergency notification procedures.

Fire Monitoring

Following the completion of the established fire watch time period, fire monitoring should be provided within the hot work area for up to an additional three hours as determined by the PAI.

The provision of additional hot work area monitoring should be determined based on conditions that will support hidden, smouldering fire conditions such as combustible construction, storage of bulk materials such as baled wastepaper or piled trash, or concealed spaces within building construction.

Hot work area monitoring can be provided by any of the following:

  • Personnel working in the area
  • Automatic smoke detection
  • Security or maintenance rounds through the hot work area every 30 minutes
  • Security cameras with smoke or fire detection capability.

All employees and contractors involved with hot work activities should receive annual training and certification. Hot work management procedures should be formally reviewed annually to assess the effectiveness of the program and make any needed improvements.

Key steps in the hot work permit procedure

  • Hot work permits should be issued for any and all hot work that is conducted outside designated safe hot work areas, such as plant production areas where hot work is the primary function (e.g., a welding department in an assembly line) or a maintenance shop area that is arranged for safe cutting and welding activities. Hot work permits should be issued only by adequately trained employees and only for a fixed period of time – not to exceed a single work shift. Reissuing permits at work shift changes ensures that all work is clearly communicated from one shift to another and that any changes in plant conditions are addressed.
  • Prior to starting hot work, the PAI should carefully inspect the work area to fully understand the scope of work to be conducted and to verify that all applicable precautions are being taken, including the removal of combustible materials from the area (or use of fire-resistive blankets to cover materials) and ensuring that automatic sprinkler protection remains in service (if applicable).
  • Following a satisfactory inspection of the work area, the PAI issues a signed permit to the hot work operator. The PAI designates a person as Fire Watch.
  • Display copies of the hot work permits in the hot work area and in another designated location (e.g., office of the PAI, control room, maintenance office, etc.) until the job is complete and the permit closed. This allows the PAI (and all other interested parties) to immediately access the permit to identify the type and location of hot work being performed in the facility.
  • Maintain a fire watch for at least 60 minutes after the completion of hot work in order to detect and extinguish any smouldering fires. This duration can be extended if the PAI determines the fire hazards warrant the extension. Risk control guidance from property insurance carriers may require a longer period for the fire watch.
  • Upon completion of the fire watch, the hot work permit should be returned to the PAI to complete an inspection of the work area before finally signing off.
  • Retain completed hot work permits for at least one year for review by property insurance carriers or other regulatory agencies.

If you currently have a hot works policy condition on your Contract Work or Public Liability policies or one is likely to be introduced at your next renewal, WTW can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your project. Through our audit of your existing procedures and advice on how to enhance your risk controls, we can help remove or avoid such conditions being imposed on your business.

Contact us for more information but, to get you started, we’ve developed a valuable risk management checklist that will help you assess your site’s level of preparedness (download below).

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Hot work risk management checklist PDF .1 MB
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