Fires and explosions caused by hot environments have claimed the lives of many workers over the years. Although the risks have been known for decades (even centuries), accidents still happen and people lose their lives.
‘Hot Work’ can be defined as any work using open flames or sources of heat that could ignite materials in the work area. Jobs such as welding, brazing, gas soldering and oxygen-acetylene cutting are classed as hot work. Workers are exposed to the risk of fires when flammable or combustible materials nearby are ignited. Therefore, it is important that this work is not carried out where flammable vapours or combustible materials exist.
You can keep safe by ensuring you minimise the risks:
Minimise the risks:
- Safe location. Ensure the hot work is performed in a safe location or with any fire hazards removed. For example wood, fabric, cardboard and other flammable material.
- Confine the heat. Use guards to confine the heat, sparks and slag to protect fire hazards that cannot be removed. Remember that these can travel a considerable distance and even start fires in adjacent rooms.
- Fire watch. In certain circumstances, personnel should act as a fire watch while work is completed. They should remain on watch for at least 30 minutes after the hot work finishes.
- Think about your surrounding and co-workers. Welding and cutting inside enclosed spaces is particularly dangerous. Smoke from fire cannot escape and will quickly overcome people working nearby.
- Protection. Welders should wear clean, dry welding gloves and overalls. Overalls or other clothing should be worn to minimise the amount of naked skin, particularly on arms and legs.
Electrical safety at work – protecting against shocks
- Assess the risks. Consider the level of risk, taking into account the type of equipment, the way it’s used and the environment it’s used in.
- Maintain electrical equipment. Don’t use if you spot signs of damage. Pay particular attention to plugs and wiring. Look out for burn marks as this could suggest an appliance has overheated. Repairs must only be carried out by competent professionals. Employees should not be allowed to use their own equipment if this has not been properly checked.
- Adequate training. Ensure employees working with electricity are aware of the risks and fully trained in how to use equipment safely. They should know how to operate isolator switches to turn the power supply off in an emergency.
- Lone working & supervision. Those using dangerous equipment should ideally be supervised, working alone may not be appropriate in certain circumstances.
- Take care in wet surroundings. Water coming into contact with electrics can make them live. Protect electrical equipment with non-conductive covering where necessary, particularly if working outdoors. Switch appliances off when cleaning and leave to dry thoroughly before turning back on.
- Overhead power lines. Working beneath power lines using ladders, cranes and scaffold poles can be extremely dangerous as electricity can arc without physical contact. Maintain a safe distance of at least six metres from power cables.
- Look out for hidden cabling. Check for wires prior to drilling walls. There are tools available to determine if electrical cables are present.
- Added Protection. Workers that regularly encounter fire and shock risks could also benefit from a personal safety device with a built-in fall alarm. If you suffered an electric shock or fall unconscious, a monitoring centre will be alerted so help can be summoned from your colleagues or the emergency services.
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