Many of you may not be involved with welding as a profession, or aren’t familiar with working in the construction field. For those that aren’t, this is a little overview of what’s usually required before anyone is allowed to perform hot work. In our case “hot work” means welding, cutting, grinding, or anything that produces sparks, flames, heat, or smoke. While there are circumstances that do not need a hot work permit, most of the time it is required. Long gone are the old days when you were lucky if you even had access to a half charged fire extinguisher.
The hot work permitting system is a part of the daily routine at most construction sites. It starts with the permit issuer. This will be a person that’s had hot work safety training. Once they’ve been trained in hot work safety, they’re then considered a competent person and allowed to issue permits.
Depending on the job, the safety people that are on the job, or any number of other factors, the paperwork portion of actually pulling a “burn permit” aka hot work permit normally happens every day. Occasionally though, the permit issued is a blanket one that will last for a week. This longer permit seems to happen more often if you’re working in a designated fab area within a construction site, or on bigger jobs where the safety people or supervisors are a little lazy and don’t want to deal with the hassle of filling out tons of permits on a daily basis. Not that I’d know anything about that of course since it’s not allowed and WRONG. 😉
Once you’ve determined that you will be doing hot work, you alert the person that will issue you the permit. They will then come to your area and inspect it to make sure that you’ve met all the requirements of the permit. Most of these requirements are common sense items.
Remove all flammable materials within a 35 foot radius
Keep things swept clean and free of flammable material
No hot work if there are flammable vapors or gases present
Use fire blankets on any items that you can’t move out of the way
Make sure you have a fire extinguisher readily available
And in cases where more than a minor fire could start, or if you can’t remove all the combustible material within the 35 foot radius, get a designated fire watch. This fire watch will then have the sole responsibility of policing your work area and watching for hazards. And then after you’ve finished all of your hot work for the day, they’re required to stay an extra 30 minutes to ensure there will be no fires.
Once the permit issuer is satisfied that you’ve met all the requirements, they sign off on your permit and you’re given the green light to start making sparks!
I used to think that all of this was overkill until I happened to be on a job where another contractor caught a piece of equipment on fire, and ended up shutting down the plant for a number of months. All because of some garbage that was on the other side of where he was welding. That accident ended up costing millions of dollars in the end, and the guy lost his job because of it. Unfortunately, i knew him and he was a great guy – safe, good worker, highly skilled, etc. He just overlooked one minor detail. So remember, it can happen to anyone, including the good guys. Be careful out there.