MRO Magazine

Avoid explosions with hot-work safety tips


August 9, 2010
By PEM Magazine

A  bulletin released by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board identified more than 60 fatalities since 1990 due to explosions and fires from hot work activities on tanks. Hot work is defined as “work involving burning, welding or a similar operation that is capable of initiating fires or explosions.” It also includes other activities with the potential to create a source of ignition, such as cutting, brazing, grinding and soldering.

Workers are at risk not only in the oil and gas industry, where flammables are handled regularly, but also in many other sectors within general industry. Below are seven key lessons that deserve special attention during hot work operations.

1. Use Alternatives
Whenever possible, avoid hot work and consider alternative methods.

2. Analyze the Hazards
Prior to the initiation of hot work, perform a hazard assessment that identifies the scope of the work, potential hazards and methods of hazard control.


3. Monitor the Atmosphere
Conduct effective gas monitoring in the work area using a properly calibrated combustible gas detector6 prior to and during hot work activities, even in areas where a flammable atmosphere is not anticipated.

4. Test the Area
In work areas where flammable liquids and gases are stored or handled, drain and/or purge all equipment and piping before hot work is conducted. When welding on or in the vicinity of storage tanks and other containers, properly test and if necessary continuously monitor all surrounding tanks or adjacent spaces for the presence of flammables.

5. Use Written Permits
Ensure qualified personnel familiar with the specific site hazards review and authorize all hot work and issue permits specifically identifying the work to be conducted and the required precautions.

6. Train Thoroughly
Train personnel on hot work policies/procedures, proper use and calibration of combustible gas detectors, safety equipment and job specific hazards and controls in a language understood by the workforce.

7. Supervise Contractors
Provide safety supervision for outside contractors. Inform contractors about site-specific hazards.