1.1.14 Hot work

Hot work is any work that involves burning, welding, using fire- or spark-producing tools, or that produces a source of ignition. Welding and cutting operations are common to drilling and servicing operations. Test for flammable gases in the work area before starting any hot work. Potentially hazardous areas include, but are not limited to, well heads, fuel tanks, mud tanks, tank batteries, gas separators, oil treaters, or any confined spaces where gases can accumulate.

Getting a hot work permit before performing hot work is just one of the steps involved in a hot work management program that helps to reduce the risk of starting a fire by welding or cutting in areas where there are flammable or combustible materials.

What is a hot work management program?

Hot work management programs are put in place to control or eliminate hot work hazards and their risks. Programs include the development of policies, procedures, and the assignment of responsibilities and accountabilities for all aspects of hot work.

A program includes:

Policies

  • Where hot work is permitted
  • When hot work is permitted
  • Who authorises hot work

Procedures

  • What must be assessed before permitting/performing hot work in an area or on a piece of equipment
  • What to do to prepare an area for hot work
  • What to do if hot work cannot be avoided in a particularly hazardous area
  • What hot work tools are required
  • How to obtain a hot work permit, when permits are required, and who can administer them

Training

  • Employees, supervisors, maintenance individuals, trained fire fighters and contractors all have different roles, and must be trained accordingly

Communications

  • Posting procedures
  • Posting policies
  • Posting signs in areas that are prohibited from having hot work performed in them
  • Displaying PPE requirements, location of firefighting equipment and emergency exit signs in areas with a high fire risk profile

Can hot work be avoided?

You may be able to substitute hot work with other methods. Below are some examples:

Minimising the Risks

Make sure you are following your hot work procedure. Also consider the follow items:

  • Make sure that all equipment is in good operating order before work starts
  • Inspect the work area thoroughly before starting. Look for combustible materials in structures (partitions, walls, ceilings)
  • Sweep clean any combustible materials on floors around the work zone. Combustible floors must be kept wet with water or covered with fire resistant blankets or damp sand.
  • Use water ONLY if electrical circuits have been de-energized to prevent electrical shock
  • Remove any spilled grease, oil, or other combustible liquid
  • Move all flammable and combustible materials away from the work area
  • If combustibles cannot be moved, cover them with fire resistant blankets or shields. Protect gas lines and equipment from falling sparks, hot materials and objects.
  • Block off cracks between floorboards, along baseboards and walls, and under door openings, with a fire resistant material. Close doors and windows.
  • Cover wall or ceiling surfaces with a fire resistant and heat insulating material to prevent ignition and accumulation of heat
  • Secure, isolate, and vent pressurised vessels, piping and equipment as needed before beginning hot work
  • Inspect the area following work to ensure that wall surfaces, studs, wires or dirt have not heated up
  • Vacuum away combustible debris from inside ventilation or other service duct openings to prevent ignition. Seal any cracks in ducts. Prevent sparks from entering into the duct work. Cover duct openings with a fire resistant barrier and inspect the ducts after work has concluded.
  • In high risk areas, assign responsibility to a person with suitable firefighting training to supervise hot work and for at least 30-60 minutes after work has stopped. Depending on the work done, the area may need to be monitored for longer (up to 3 hours) after the end of the hot work.
  • Eliminate explosive atmospheres (e.g., vapours or combustible dust) or if this is not possible, do not allow hot work. Shut down any process that produces combustible atmospheres, and continuously monitor the area for accumulation of combustible gases before, during, and after hot work.
  • If possible, schedule hot work during shutdown periods
  • Comply with the required legislation and standards applicable to your workplace

Hot work permit

The hot work permit system is intended to assure that the individuals involved in construction, renovation, repairs and maintenance of facilities are aware of the hazards associated with hot work and welding and that they implement control measures to help mitigate these risks.

The hot work permit is the means by which the organisation will be able to keep track of hot work activities and ensure that these activities are being conducted safely.

The hot work permit also provides a systematic check list for hot work fire safety and serves as a reminder to contractors of their fire prevention responsibilities before, during, and after any hot work is conducted.