Hot work is defined as burning, welding, or similar spark-producing operations that can ignite fires or explosions. Hot work accidents occur throughout many industries in the U.S., including food processing, pulp and paper manufacturing, oil production, fuel storage, and waste treatment. Most hot work incidents result in the ignition of combustible materials, e.g., a roofing fire, or the ignition of structures or debris near the hot work.
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has found that hot work is one of the most common causes of worker death among incidents it investigates. CSB continues to see hot work incidents involving materials in the areas surrounding the work activity, and have found a significant subset of incidents involving a tank or container where flammables are present to be particularly dangerous. In addition, the CSB continues to observe hot work incidents involving a tank or container at high hazard facilities like refineries and chemical plants. These incidents typically result in injuries and fatalities and have the potential to result in a major catastrophic accident.
As a result of the CSB’s data collection of incidents related to hot work, in February 2010, the CSB published the Safety Bulletin, Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths during Hot Work in and Around Tanks. The safety bulletin provides summaries of the hot work incidents examined by the CSB and identifies seven key lessons aimed at preventing worker deaths during hot work in and around storage tanks containing flammable materials which include:
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 detector 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 (not just the tank or container being worked on) for the presence of flammables and eliminate potential sources of flammables.
5. Use Written Permits– Ensure that 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 conducting hot work. Inform contractors about site-specific hazards including the presence of flammable materials.
CSB investigations and deployments involving hot work:
2016 – Sunoco Logistics Partners
2014 – Omega Protein
2012 – Long Brothers Oil Company
2010 – Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths during Hot Work in and Around Tanks
- 2009 – ConAgra Foods
- 2009 – TEPPCO Partners
- 2009 – A.V. Thomas Produce
- 2008 – MAR Oil
- 2008 – EMC Used Oil
2009 - E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co Inc. Fatal Hot Work Explosion
2008 - Packaging Corporation of America (PCA)
2006 – Bethune Point Wastewater Plant Explosion
2006 – Partridge Raleigh Oilfield Explosion and Fire
2001 – Motiva Enterprises Sulfuric Acid Tank Explosion