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Hot Work Compliance can prevent fires on building sites

Media reports regarding last week’s fire at London’s exclusive 5 Star Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hyde Park, suggest that it started on the roof where contractors were still carrying out building work as part of the hotel’s extensive refurbishment program. According to one tradesman, the builders had been cutting materials on the roof during the day – which of course, raises the question of whether the cause of the fire was Hot Work related.

Welding, soldering, brazing, grinding and drilling all pose fire risks – especially in areas containing flammable or combustible materials. Dry timber, wood debris, adhesives, insulating materials and soft furnishings are just some of the things that can easily ignite and working with such ignition sources near flammable materials is known as ‘Hot Work’.

Any contractor – whatever their size – needs to ensure that they are Hot Work compliant, so for anyone planning or undertaking any type of Hot Work, this is what you need to know to keep safe and be on the right side of the law:

1. Know your safety regulations. If you don’t comply you may be investigated, sentenced, fined or even jailed.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 state that all employers and self-employed persons must carry out risk assessments for fire risks and put any necessary controls in place. Companies and individuals found negligent of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 can be fined up to £450,000*. Those deemed responsible can also face a custodial sentence.

2. Get a Hot Work Permit. It’s the law, you need one for every job, before you start.

If Hot Work is unavoidable, you must have Hot Work Permit in place BEFORE work starts. The Hot Work form summarises what work is to be carried out, how and when it is to be done and what precautions are needed.

A Hot Work permit is completed and issued by someone who understands the fire risks fully, for example a supervisor on the site or the contractor responsible for the work. The site supervisor authorises the permit for use and signs off the work on safe completion.

You can download the Hot Work Permit template which is included in the Firechief Guide to Hot Work Compliance booklet 

3. Plan ahead and minimise the risk

Remember that for a fire to start, you need all three of the following elements:

• Oxygen – not only from the air but also from artificial, oxidising materials and oxygen in cylinders
• Fuel – flammable liquid like paints, varnish, white spirit, adhesives, solvents, wood and packaging materials, shavings and oily rags
• Heat – smoking, lights, naked flames, electrical, gas or oil-fired heaters, sparks from Hot Work, faulty electrical equipment, etc.

Important questions to ask yourself in advance:

• Do you have the correct firefighting equipment for your working area?
• Do you have a fire blanket to protect flammable items?
• Have you cleared the area of combustible materials?
• Are you aware of your emergency exit and assembly point?
• Is the storage and disposal of flammable materials adequate?
• Have you completed a Hot Work Permit?

Once you have assessed the fire risks in your working area and got your Hot Work Permit form ready to complete, all that’s left is to stock up on quality, UK approved fire safety equipment. To find out exactly what equipment you need for the fire risks in your working area, download a copy of the Firechief Guide to Hot Work Compliance. This also includes a Hot Work Permit template for you to use whenever you need to.

The Firechief range of products set the standard for those who are seeking competitively priced, superior quality, UK-approved fire safety products. Look out for the Firechief brand for products you can trust to help keep you safe. Contact [email protected] or call us on 0330 999 0019

*assuming a turnover of <£2m