The U.S. Chemical Safety Board recently released the paper "Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths During Hot Work In and Around Tanks -- Effective Hazard Assessment and Use of Combustible Gas Monitoring Will Save Lives"
The 13-page document summarizes 11 accidents – nine of which the agency has investigated – to highlight seven key lessons that were found to be applicable to all or most of the incidents, especially the need for effective hazard assessment and proper monitoring of potentially flammable air concentrations in work areas.
Here are the seven lessons – but be sure to read the entire bulletin for more insight.
1. Use Alternatives – Whenever possible, avoid hot work and consider alternative methods.
2. Analyze the Hazards – Prior to the initiation of hot work, perform a hazard assessment that identifies the scope of the work, potential hazards, and methods of hazard control.
3. Monitor the Atmosphere – Conduct effective gas monitoring in the work area using a properly calibrated combustible gas detector6 prior to and during hot work activities, even in areas where a flammable atmosphere is not anticipated.
4. Test the Area – In work areas where flammable liquids and gases are stored or handled, drain and/or purge all equipment and piping before hot work is conducted. When welding on or in the vicinity of storage tanks and other containers, properly test and if necessary continuously monitor all surrounding tanks or adjacent spaces (not just the tank or container being worked on) for the presence of flammables and eliminate potential sources of flammables.
5. Use Written Permits – Ensure that qualified personnel familiar with the specific site hazards review and authorize all hot work and issue permits specifically identifying the work to be conducted and the required precautions.
6. Train Thoroughly – Train personnel on hot work policies/procedures, proper use and calibration of combustible gas detectors, safety equipment, and job specific hazards and controls in a language understood by the workforce.
7. Supervise Contractors – Provide safety supervision for outside contractors conducting hot work.10 Inform contractors about site-specific hazards including the presence of flammable materials.