Last week, we reviewed several preventable hot work fires and explosions that were caused by improper procedures used during hot work activities. These incidents resulted in fatalities, injuries, and property damage. You can read more about these incidents, and learn more about typical hot work precautions here.

This week, we will continue our discussion by reviewing the different roles and responsibilities of a hot work program, as well as areas where hot work should NEVER be performed.

Roles & Responsibilities

To safely and successfully complete hot work activities, there are several key roles that must be undertaken by in-house personnel or by outside contractors.


  • Develops and implements a Hot Work Management Program complying with NFPA 51B, “Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work”, and any additional requirements in applicable corporate policies or property insurance underwriter standards
  • Designates one or more Hot Work Permit Authorizing Individuals (PAIs)
  • Ensures that all individuals involved in hot work activities are familiar with the Facility’s Hot Work Management ProgramEnsures that all individuals are trained in safe use of hot work equipment
  • Ensures that all individuals understand emergency procedures in the event of a fire

Permit Authorizing Individual (PAI)

  • Clears combustible materials (e.g. paper clippings, wood shavings, textiles) within a 35-foot radius of the work area in all directions, horizontally and vertically, or arranges for shielding of combustibles
  • Protects combustible floors with wet sand or fire retardant shields, and assesses shock hazards associated with wet floors
  • Protects from stray sparks, slag, or other hot metal any materials that cannot be moved at least 35 feet utilizing welding blankets, curtains, or pads
  • Verifies there are no explosive atmospheres that might be present and ignited (combustible gas detector)
  • Blocks off cracks between floorboards, along baseboards and walls, and under door openings with fire resistive materials
  • Checks for combustibles on the other side of walls, ceilings, etc., that could be ignited by heat, and moves them or provides a fire watch in these areas
  • Ensures that fire protection equipment is in working order
  • Implements a fire watch in all necessary locations
  • Issues a hot work permit for a specific area on a specific date by a specific department or contractor
  • Performs final check of work area 30 minutes after completion of hot work

Hot Work Operator

  • Obtains PAI approval before starting work
  • Ensures that equipment is in good, safe working order
  • Ceases hot work if conditions become unsafe, notifying PAI or management

Fire Watch (in-house personnel or contractor)

  • Understands site hazards
  • Ensures safe conditions throughout hot work process
  • Has authority to stop hot work if conditions become unsafe
  • Has a properly charged portable fire extinguisher on hand and is trained in its use
  • Sounds alarm if fire occurs
  • Maintains the fire watch for at least 30 minutes after completion of hot work operations in order to detect and extinguish smoldering fires
  • Provides additional fire watch for up to 3 hours after the completion of hot work operations where the ignition of combustibles cannot be directly observed


Non-Permissible Areas for Hot Work

Hot work should not be permitted in the following areas:

  • Any area not authorized by the PAI
  • Spinklered buildings where the sprinklers are impaired
  • In the presence of explosive atmospheres (i.e. where mixtures of air with flammable gases, vapors, liquids or dusts exist)
  • In the presence of unclean or improperly prepared drums, tanks or other containers or equipment that have contained materials that could develop explosive atmospheres
  • In areas with an accumulation of combustible dusts that might become airborne or develop an explosive atmosphere
  • On pipes or other metals that are in contact with combustible walls, partitions or ceilings/roofs, if the work is close enough to cause ignition by conduction


Keep in mind, 76% of hot work fires are attributed to hot work being conducted too close to combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, and plastic, and the most common items ignited first are:

  • Building structural members or insulation (22%)
  • Flammable or combustible liquids (13%)

Hot work losses are preventable when the proper procedures are followed. Failure to undertake proper precautions can lead to serious consequences including loss of human life, property damage and business interruption.

Most hot work fires can be traced to a failure to correctly identify and control conditions. Managing hot work through the implementation of an effective hot work program as outlined in NFPA 51B is critical to preventing hot work related fires and explosions.

If you need assistance developing a hot work program in your facility – our fire protection engineers can help. Fill out the contact form below and we will contact you as soon as possible:[gravityform id=”1″ name=”Contact Us”]