Everything you need to know about hot work permits, in detail.
As safety training specialists we get asked a lot about hot work, and hot work permits in particular. People in industrial and construction industries want to know if and when they need one, what it covers and how to get one.
We’ve put together a guide to help you understand a little more about hot work permits.
What is hot work?
Hot work is exactly what it says on the tin. It is industrial work that involves the application of heat, such as flame or anything that creates a spark or high temperatures, such as an electrical arc.
Examples of hot work:
- Using open flames from the likes of torches and blow lamps
- Soldering, brazing
- Oxy-fuel welding (such as acetylene or propane)
- Electric welding (mig or tig)
- Thawing pipes
- Using tar boilers or asphalt
- Using lead heaters and hot air blowers
- Cutting and grinding
British Standard Institute definition of hot work (BS EN 9999)
“Any procedure that might involve or have the potential to generate sufficient heat, sparks or flame to cause a fire.”
Please note, this definition leaves out any mention of work that takes places in flammable atmospheres or other potential low-energy fire sources, such as drilling or battery-powered hand tools. However, this can still be classed as hot work, which should be established beforehand in a risk assessment.
Hazards of hot work
Anyone tasked with carrying out hot work must be aware of the potential risks involved and how easily a fire can start, including via:
- Sparks: They can pass through cavities or openings in walls or floors, potentially igniting combustible material they land on. Working at height can be particularly hazardous as sparks spread further.
- Conduction: Heat created in one place can start a fire in another due to heat conduction. For example, hot work on pipes or metal frameworks taking place in one room might ignite fuels or materials in another room.
- Explosion: There is risk of explosion if working with gases such as acetylene or propane, or in a flammable atmosphere with combustible dust, such as sugar, flour or wood.
- Burns: There is an associated risk of a person suffering burns when carrying out hot work
What is a hot work permit?
A hot work permit is designed to safeguard the person carrying out the work, the people in the surrounding areas, as well as the building or site they are in.
Providing this official authorisation document prompts proper procedures to be put in place and outlines what those systems are. It also identifies who is responsible ensuring its compliance of its terms and conditions is taking place.
A permit means you will meet the necessary legal, insurance and regulatory requirements that come with carrying out hot work.
Hot work information required on a permit (more details below):
- Start time
- Finish time
- Nature of the work to be performed
- The issuer of hot work permit
- The receiver of the hot work permit (person carrying out the work)
- Check list
- Fire watch
Do I need a hot work permit?
If you are carrying out hot work inside a building or near a building, yes.
The Fire Safety in Construction (HSG 168) guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that the only time a hot work permit might not be required is when the work is ‘low risk’, however it does not state what is classed as low risk. This should also be established in a risk assessment beforehand.
Work being undertaken in designated hot work areas, such as welding bays or fabrication shops, may not need a permit as they should be safe by design.
How long is a hot work permit valid for?
It should be valid for the duration of the work, and for no longer than one shift. Each new permit should be signed by the person in charge to accept responsibility of its terms and conditions, and if at any point management changes the new supervisor should sign the permit.
Who can issue a hot work permit?
The person who issues a permit must been deemed as being a ‘competent person’. This means someone who is suitably knowledgeable in hot work processes and has the relevant training and experience to understand the risks involved.
Is a hot work permit a legal requirement?
It’s a legal requirement to complete a hot work permit if you are carrying out hot work as a part of construction or maintenance activity. It also an expectation of any enforcing body that you have a hot work permit for hot work.
There are two enforcement bodies who have inspection powers:
- Fire safety officer: The officer from a local fire and rescue service is the enforcing authority for fire safety in most workplaces.
- HSE: The Health and Safety Executive is the enforcing authority for fire safety in construction.
During both arranged and unannounced visits they can offer advice, issue improvement notices or prohibition notices. They also have prosecuting powers. If there is a major fire, both authorities can carry out a joint investigation.
Is a hot work permit an insurance requirement?
Most of the time it is.
Because it is increasingly common that insurers demand that a hot work permit is obtained when undertaking such work, you should check your policy if you have any doubts. You could invalidate your cover if you do not have a permit.
If you are a business or organisation that is hiring a contractor to do hot work, it is vital you do due diligence on the people carrying out any high-risk work. Do they have a valid hot work permit?
In June 2020 a school in Long Eaton was completely destroyed by a fire that was started by hot work maintenance. Accidents do happen and not adhering to your insurance policy can have devastating consequences.
What is a fire watch?
A fire watch is a designated individual who is responsible for monitoring the work area and surrounding areas for an outbreak of fire. They should attempt to extinguish fires in their early stages, without putting themselves or anybody else at risk. For the duration of any hot works, the fire watch must be a different person to the operative carrying out the task. Their job is:
- To watch for any outbreaks of fire once the hot work is finished
- To ensure there is no risk of fire in the vicinity of the hot work caused by sparks or heat, including in rooms opposite, above or below
- To monitor the area for the duration of the task, including during breaks
How long does a fire watch last?
The Health and Safety Executive state a fire watch should last for the duration of the work plus a minimum of at least one hour after any hot work has finished. In a building with a timber frame this should be at least two hours.
Hot work permit training
The person who compiles the hot work permit must be an experienced and knowledgeable ‘competent person’ with the right training and understanding of the significant risks involved.
We work with participants on our one-day hot work passport course to provide comprehensive training on hot work permits and how to create them. Once completed, the training is valid for five years.