On January 25, 2008, a fire at the Monte Carlo Casino in Las Vegas, NV was started by welders working on the roof without proper hot work permits or safety precautions. The fire forced the evacuation of 6,000 guests and resulted in an estimated $100 million in damages and lost business.

On June 1, 2008, Workers using a blowtorch on the roof of a building facade at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California accidentally ignited a fire that swept through the back lot. Nine fire fighters and a Sheriff’s Deputy sustained minor injuries and the property damage exceeded $25 million.

On July 28, 2014, a fatal tank explosion occurred at the Omega Protein facility in Moss Point, Mississippi, killing 27 year-old Jerry Lee Taylor II and injuring three subcontractors. The incident occurred during hot work on or near a tank that contained eight inches of a slurry of water and fish matter known as “stickwater”. No combustible gas testing was done on the contents of the tank before the hot work began.

These fires and explosion were caused by inadequate precautions and improper procedures utilized during hot work activities. These incidents, and the resulting fatalities, injuries, property damage, and business interruption were all preventable, if proper hot work procedures had been followed.

Hot work is defined by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) as work involving burning, welding, or a similar operation that is capable of initiating fires or explosions such as brazing, soldering, torching, grinding, cutting, drilling, and milling.

Hot Work Permit Program

A Hot Work Permit is required for any operation that produces heat, sparks, or open flame. The Hot Work Permit must be completed by a Permit Authorizing Individual (PAI) and posted at the site. The permit requires that safety precautions be followed before, during, and after the work has been completed.

Typical precautions include:

•           Availability of sprinklers, hose streams and fire extinguishers

•           Maintaining equipment in good repair

•           Removing combustibles and flammable liquids from the area

•           Wetting of combustible floors

•           Covering wall and floor openings with a noncombustible material

•           Providing a fire watch during hot work and for 30 minutes after work has been completed

•           Providing fire watch for adjoining areas above and below the level where hot work is performed

•           Inspecting the area where hot work was performed 30 minutes after job is completed

If these precautions cannot be taken, hot work should not be permitted.

Stay tuned for next week’s post, when we’ll discuss the different roles and responsibilities of a hot work program, as well as areas where hot work should NEVER be performed.