New Braunfels, TX, June 21, 2023
One of the effective ways to eliminate and control fire hazards is to have a fire watch. This is a requirement whenever welding and other operations posing fire hazards are performed in the workplace. Considering all the hot work we do on a daily basis, it’s remarkable that there are not more jobsite fires. NFPA reports that there are an average of 4,630 structure fires involving hot work activities each year. Both NFPA and OSHA require fire watchers in various situations. Fortunately, there are many safeguards that can assist us in preventing these incidents. Today, we will discuss three key points regarding fire watch or watchers.
ALWAYS UTILIZE A FIREWATCHER WHEN PERFORMING HOT WORK.
Just as the bullet point states, a fire watch is required anytime hot work is being performed. So, what is the definition of hot work? OSHA defines hot work as “work involving gas welding, cutting, brazing or similar flame or spark-producing operations.” Sparks and molten materials can be scattered and dispersed more than 35 feet during welding, grinding, and cutting projects. It’s not unusual for the sparks and slag to reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees F or more when thrown from hot operations. A temperature of this magnitude can easily ignite wood, paper, flammable liquids, and any other combustibles found on site.
KNOW THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE FIREWATCHER.
A fire watch is the person or persons responsible for continuously observing hot work activity for the detection of, and response to, fires during hot work operations. A fire watch has the authority to stop work if necessary and conduct essential steps for restoring safe conditions within the hot work area. Some of the key responsibilities include watching out for fire hazards, reviewing the JHA, maintaining site conditions around the area of work, pre-staging of fire extinguishers, remaining in constant communication with the team, and must not leave the area of work until the hazard is no longer present.
HAVE THE PROPER FIREFIGHTING EQUIPMENT ON SITE TO MATCH THE SCOPE OF WORK AND SITE CONDITIONS.
The goal is to never have a fire in the first place but oftentimes, accidents happen, and a fire will break out. If or when this happens, it is important to remember that we do not allow ourselves or other employees to put themselves at risk. In doing so, we must make sure that the firefighting equipment on site matches the scope of work being performed as well as the site conditions. For example, welding at height in a dry and windy climate will require additional firefighting equipment such as an increased amount of fire extinguishers up to and including a water buffalo versus a site in a cooler climate with standing water where cadwelding is taking place. Remember that it is better to be over-prepared and not need it than underprepared and need it.
If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will get you taken care of.