The short answer: everyone.
Hot work is one of the leading causes of industrial fire. According to the NFPA report Structure Fires Started by Hot Work - September 2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an 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.
At this year's NFPA Conference & Expo, Skip Donnell, a volunteer firefighter and the Engineering Manager of Liberty Mutual Insurance, presented on the importance of implementing a hot works permit program - a program that can reduce loss potential as well as save lives. As he described, a hot work permit program is important because it:
- Provides accountability
- Ensures a "paper trail"
- Helps ensure safety of the facility
- Reduces the likelihood of fires
- Improves employee safety
As Donnell explained, the leading causes of hot work fire incidents can be traced to a failure to identify combustibles or combustible construction, impaired fire protection systems, or failure to implement a fire watch both during and after the hot work had been completed. Donnell went on to highlight some high profile cases throughout the years.
One such well known case was the Pepcon Disaster in Henderson, NV. This remote desert manufacturer of ammonium perchlorate - an oxidizer used in solid rocket fuels - had an historic explosion back on May 4, 1988 from what was most likely caused by a welding incident. Watch the shocking explosion as captured by a bystander.
This incident caused 1 death, injured 372 (including 15 firefighters) and had an estimated loss of $100 million.
This example and many others shared during his presentation illustrated the dangers associated with hot work activities. These incidents emphasize the importance of actions taken both before and after hot work -- they both play a crucial role in significantly reducing loss potential.
Creating a hot work permit process is key, but as Donnell explained, "You have to get buy-in from the highest level of management. And you need to empower managers to ensure that the process is followed.
Use these 5 tips to ensure a successful permitting process:
- Avoid hot work if possible
- Train personnel
- Ensure area clear of flammable/combustible materials
- Use a written permit system
- Supervise the work
Remember, hot work is a leading cause of industrial fire loss and those fires may not become apparent until after work is completed. A hot work program can assist you in controlling this exposure.