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Steps and concerns for performing hot work safely

The Chemical Safety Board and the National Fire Protection Association recommend that California employees and employers alike look for alternatives and ask whether the job is necessary before beginning any work that produces heat, sparks or flames. Collectively, this category of work is referred to as hot work. It includes jobs like brazing, soldering, cutting and grinding, welding and pipe thawing. Even drilling is categorized as hot work because it can generate heat from friction.

The potential of fire breaking out is among the most serious risks associated with hot work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration based part of its welding, cutting and brazing requirements on the NFPA's fire prevention standard. The NFPA 51B standard lists performing tasks in designated areas as the next step for performing hot work safely. A designated area is defined as a specified location that is fire safe and approved and designed for hot work tasks. Designated areas should be essentially free of flammables and combustibles, and they should be constructed of fire-resistant or noncombustible materials.

Designated areas should also be segregated from other work areas to meet the NFPA's 51B standard. If a designated area is not available, hot work may still be performed safely following a detailed hazard evaluation. Many companies handle the problem by securing hot work permits.

The permit process may be especially important when the work is to be performed by an outside contractor or another worker who is not familiar with the job site. Failure to respect the standards designed by OSHA and the NFPA can lead to dangerous working conditions and work injuries. An attorney may be able to help employees who have been injured on the job by filing a claim under their employer's workers' compensation insurance coverage.

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