Hot appliances and open flames are a proven source of danger for maintenance and repair crews. Between 1990 and 2010, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) identified over 60 fatalities resulting from “hot work.” These specifically related to welding, cutting, and other activities using high heat around confined spaces.

Fire Hazard: Hot Work Near Flammable Material

The danger of working with fire near flammable or explosive material may seem obvious, but the number of incidents in recent years suggests otherwise. In a report on 11 incidents of this type, CSB identified a similarity in the accidents: “While each accident has unique features, all resulted from a flammable vapor coming in contact with an ignition source created by welding or cutting that was performed in, on, or near tanks that contained flammables.”

Even if workers knew there were flammable materials in the area, they were unaware these materials were concentrated in dangerous levels – levels that might lead to an explosion. A number of standards and safety information documents have been written to prevent hot work accidents, yet they continue to occur.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

  1. NFPA 51B – Standard for Fire Prevention during Welding, Cutting and Other Hot Work
  2. NFPA 306 – Standard for the Control of Gas Hazards on Vessels (Marine Industry)
  3. NFPA 326 – Standard for the Safeguarding of Tanks and Containers for Entry, Cleaning and Repair

American Welding Society (AWS)

  1. ANSI Z49.1 – Standard for Safety in Welding and Cutting and Allied Processes
  2. AWS Safety & Health Fact Sheets (welding as it pertains to 37 different hazard types and safety protocols)

American Petroleum Institute (API)

  1. API 653 – Standard for Tank Inspection, Repair, Alteration, and Reconstruction
  2. API RP 2009 – Safe Welding and Cutting Practices in Refineries, Gasoline Plants, and Petrochemicals Plants
  3. API 2015 – Standard for Safe Entry and Cleaning of Petroleum Storage Tanks, Planning and Managing Tank Entry from Decommissioning through Recommissioning

Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

  1. 29 CFR 1910.252 – Hot Work Standard for Welding, Cutting and Brazing

Standard operating procedures and guidelines that are routinely monitored and enforced is one way a facility can ensure safety. If you need help assessing and reducing fire risks, our fire protection engineers can prevent the worst from occurring. Contact us today:[gravityform id=”1″ name=”Contact Us”]


By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.