SafeWork NSW recently issued a safety alert about the precautions required when carrying out hot work in the workplace, such as grinding, welding, oxy cutting or other processes which produce a flame or other ignition source.
The alert was issued following an incident in February 2018, after a serious fire developed on a building demolition site when plastic mesh screening ignited while hot work was being undertaken.
The demolition work involved the cutting of a metal beam using an oxy acetylene torch. The fire engulfed the site and approximately 20 people were treated on site for smoke inhalation.
The incident demonstrates one of the hazards associated with hot work, a fire caused by heat, sparks, molten metal or direct contact with the flame, while others include:
The alert made a number of recommendations, and said that prior to carrying out any hot work on site it is essential to implement a hot work permit system, which includes a detailed review, to identify all potential hazards associated with the proposed hot work activity and to eliminate the hazards or, where this is not reasonably practicable, control the resulting risks.
Typical key measures to be considered include:
The hot work permit system should incorporate a check list to address all hazards and controls and should be reviewed and signed off by the persons in control of the site and involved in the hot work activity.
A copy of the hot work permit should be kept in the site file as well as being displayed at the site.
The hot work permit should also address housekeeping and other measures such as inspection of work site and identification and handling of hot products subsequent to the hot work activity.
Training and awareness should be provided to all site personnel and contractors covering:
For more information read the Code of practice for welding processes or the Australian Standard AS 1674.1 Safety in Welding and Allied Processes Part 1: Fire Precautions.