This week think about what hot work your team does. Remember it’s not just welding, grinding and using a gas axe that can cause a spark. Also, traditional fuels that you would put in an engine are not the only way to cause an explosion – some acids, decomposing material and dust can be just as catastrophic.
Take a look at Dangers of Hot Work video which was produced by the US Chemical Safety Bureau (It shows what happens when welding downstream causes an oil refinery to explode).
- A pipe was to be installed to connect two oil storage tanks
- No gas detectors were used
- A storage tank was emptied and ‘checked that it is empty’ by inserting a lit welding torch into it
- Workers saw no flash so thought the tank was safe
- Crude oil from another tank warms up in the sun and vapours transfer to the ‘empty tank’
- Sparks from welding ignite the vapours, the lid of the tank is blown off, and the ladder where 3 workers were standing is destroyed
- Flames ignite the next tank and an even bigger explosion occurs
- 3 workers killed, 1 severely injured
Key Learning Points: Hot Work
- Train and supervise your people (this really need to be No. 1 always!)
- Conduct a risk assessment and look carefully at the work area:
- Is there an alternative to hot work?
- What areas are connected to the work area?
- Can it be isolated?
- Will a change in temperature on a hot day affect the area?
- Have a work permit that clearly identifies all the processes on the job and their hazards and communicate these with the team and ensure isolations are completed.
- Atmospheric testing for combustible gas needs to be ongoing, not just at the start of the job
- Review your emergency plans: check fire appliances and emergency exits
Have a safe and productive week.