Helping to reduce the risk of workplace fires and explosions ignited by hot work
"Hot work" is work that can initiate fires or explosions. It includes tasks that involve burning, welding, riveting, grinding, using fire- or spark-producing tools, or other work that produces a source of ignition. These ignition sources could ignite flammable or combustible materials, putting workers at risk.
Managing risk by implementing controls
Managing risk in your workplace involves identifying the hazards that could cause harm to your workers and determining whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm from happening.
The risk of fire and explosion from hot work is high because it introduces a hazard — an ignition source. By identifying the hazard and implementing suitable controls, you can reduce the risk of fire and explosion.
If hot work is necessary at your workplace, you must comply with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation that apply to that work.
The following are some steps you can take to help reduce incidents related to hot work:
- Perform an effective hot work hazard assessment:
- Identify the scope of the work and the potential hazards associated with those work processes.
- Survey the worksite to look for potential sources of flammable or explosive substances that could ignite if exposed to hot work.
- Ensure any new work processes are assessed for potential risks prior to implementation.
- Engage with your workers to identify and implement risk controls — following the hierarchy of controls and considering industry practices outlined in applicable codes and standards.
- Implement safer alternatives to hot work where possible (e.g., cold cutting, replacing instead of repairing).
- Clear flammable or combustible materials away from hot work, and/or use barriers to protect areas where sparks and hot debris from hot work could result in a fire or explosion.
- Test and continuously monitor the area for the presence of flammable or explosive substances. Implement the use of gas detectors where appropriate.
- Make sure the workplace has adequate ventilation to help reduce the buildup of flammable or explosive gases.
- Make sure tanks and drums are prepared for hot work, taking steps such as isolation, emptying, cleaning, gas freeing, and inerting.
- Establish fire watches.
- Make sure the appropriate type of fire extinguishers are available wherever hot work is done, and ensure workers know how to find this equipment.
- Establish safe work procedures for hot work tasks and controls, and train workers these procedures.
- Provide safety supervision for any outside contractors conducting hot work.
WorkSafeBC resources and related information:
- Managing risk
- Occupational Health and Safety Regulation:
- Incident investigation slide shows:
- Welding – Hot Work (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety)
- Hot Work on Small Tanks and Drums (Health and Safety Executive, UK)
- Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths During Hot Work In and Around Tanks (U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board)
- Hot Work Safety (National Fire Protection Association)