Hot work is an important part of manufacturing, repair, renovation, construction and demolition activities. Professional contractors and do-it-yourselfers can get in trouble when they don’t follow the basic safety precautions.
NFPA’s new report, Structure Fires Started by Hot Work, shows that in 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 4,440 structure fires involving hot work per year. These fires caused an average of 12 civilian deaths, 208 civilian injuries and $287 million in direct property damage per year.
I suspect that those who regularly conduct hot work or oversee contractors who do so will not be surprised by the statistics from the report.
Forty-two percent of hot work fires occurred in or on homes.
Welding torches were involved in one-third (34%) of total hot work structure fires. Cutting torches were involved in one-quarter (24%), soldering equipment in 18%, burners in 11%, and heat treating equipment in another 11%. The leading types of hot work equipment involved in fires are different in homes than in non-home properties. As the graph shows, soldering equipment was the most common type of hot work involved in home fires while welding torches were the most common in non-home fires.
Home fires involving hot work were most likely to start in either wall assemblies or concealed spaces (15%), and bathrooms or lavatories (14%). For non-homes, the peak areas of origin were exterior roof surfaces (12%) and process or manufacturing areas (9%). The majority of hot work fires started when the work was done too close to something that could catch fire.
One-quarter (25%) of home hot work fires began with the ignition of structural members or framing; 22% started when insulation ignited. Fifteen percent of non-home hot work fires occurred when flammable or combustible liquids or gases caught fire; 10% started with exterior roof coverings or framing; another 10% began with structural members or framing; and 9% started with insulation.
NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention during Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work provides guidelines to prevent these incidents.