When you weld, cut or grind, the potential for accidents is significant. Eyes and skin can be burned, hearing can be damaged, and an electric shock can kill you. Among the hot metal, sparks and flying chips, are compressed gases stored in high-pressure cylinders. Even the fumes and gases produced during the welding process can damage your respiratory system or cause asphyxiation.
Hot work is defined as any temporary operation involving open flame or producing heat and/or sparks. This includes, but not limited to, welding, soldering, cutting, grinding, If proper precautions are not taken while performing hot work, the result can be catastrophic. Removing combustible or flammable materials from the hot work area is the primary preventive measure, but if this is not possible, isolate it with a fire shield or fire blanket. Hot work should be performed inside the designated welding area to help contain sparks and, when necessary, erect welding screens to protect the eyes of workers in the vicinity from exposure to bright lights. Review additional measures under best practices section below. It’s crucial to be cautious. Wear your personal protective equipment (PPE), maintain a safe workplace and follow safety rules.
At minimum, your PPE should include:
- Eye protection to shield against sparks, molten metal and welder’s flash as appropriate to the task
- Hearing protection (when over 85dbaTWA)
- Clothing made of heat-resistant materials, such as an leather apron or cape sleeve
- Safety boots
- Gloves made of leather or other flameproof fabric
- Respiratory protection to protect against toxic chemicals and gases
Note: Before you use a respirator, get proper training and have it properly fitted.
Hot works best practices
- Try to weld only in well-ventilated areas
- Work in confined spaces only if they’ve been atmosphere-tested
- Follow all other confined space procedures
- Do not weld, cut, or grind within 35 feet of flammable or combustible materials, liquids, vapors and dusts without a fire watch
- Fire Watch must be trained in the use of a fire extinguisher, emergency notification and procedures plans
- Fire Watch must watch for at least 30 minutes (some cases longer) after completing work
- Have an accessible, dedicated, and appropriate size/rating fire extinguisher close by
- Use only approved equipment in good condition and follow the manufacturer’s instructions
- Inspect equipment for loose connections, bare wires or cables before operating
- Make sure the machinery is properly grounded
- Handle compressed gas cylinders safely, following proper use and storage procedures
- Keep aisles and stairways clear of cables and equipment
- Keep other people a safe distance from welding and cutting operations
- Review first aid techniques for burns, poison inhalation, shock and eye injuries
- Know where the safety showers (if available) and eyewash stations are located and how to use them
Hot work activities can be dangerous without proper precautions taken beyond cuts and burns. You should also watch for symptoms of metal fume fever, caused by breathing fumes formed while welding. Symptoms may include a metallic taste in the mouth, dry nose and throat, weakness, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, fever, chills and nausea. Notify your supervisor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.