Hot work activities are involved in an average of 4,440 U.S. structure fires per year

Blog Post created by martyahrens Employee on Dec 13, 2016

Welding torches were involved in 37% of non-home hot work fires but only 29% of such home fires. 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.

The report also contains descriptions of hot work fires from NFPA Journal and OSHA's accident investigation summaries to provide more information about how these events can occur.

NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention during Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work provides guidelines to prevent these incidents.