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Hot works: what your customers need to know

At a glance

  • Hot works are regularly undertaken during construction and maintenance projects, and have important implications that require active risk management
  • Hot works include any operation that uses open flames or the local application of heat and friction
  • Hot works are regularly undertaken during construction and maintenance projects, and have important implications that require active risk management

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By reading this article, and correctly answering the three questions underneath, you will have achieved the following learning outcome: Identify key legislative developments affecting claims and identify the latest legislative and regulatory developments affecting construction customers.

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Hot works are regularly undertaken during construction and maintenance projects, and have important implications that require active risk management.

What are hot works?

Hot works include any operation that uses open flames or the local application of heat and friction. Examples include:

  • Welding
  • Soldering
  • Torch cutting
  • Grinding
  • Hot riveting
  • Heat applied to roof coverings (particularly in relation to the replacement of felt coverings on flat roofs)

The dangers of hot works

Hot works are frequently used during construction, demolition, renovation and maintenance. As the name suggests, they present a heightened fire risk by involving the use of heat, or the creation of sparks and other sources of ignition.

Zurich’s analysis of the underlying causes of such fires shows that many could have been avoided with additional vigilance during the pre-work assessments and post-work fire watch periods.

Broker action: It is important for customers to understand the full range of activities that constitute hot works, not only those that involve open flames, and for them to ensure that proper processes are in place to manage the additional risks that accompany them.

The importance of a written hot work permit programme

Developing and implementing a written hot work permit programme is an essential component of effective facility risk management.

Whether being undertaken by your customers’ own staff or external contractors, the use of any hot works should always be authorised, monitored and documented.

It is important to note that the majority of property insurance policies will include specific terms requiring the use of a written hot work permit programme. Having a programme in place, and periodically checking for compliance, will help customers to ensure they are meeting the legal, regulatory and insurance requirements that accompany hot works.

Broker action: Adopting a highly proactive approach to the legal and regulatory environment associated with hot works is important. As your customers engage in hot work operations, you could encourage your customers to document accordingly.

Creating and implementing a permit programme

Your customers’ hot work permit programmes should be tailored to the needs of each specific location and should look to include the following fundamental aspects:

  • General risk assessment – Risk assessments should be undertaken when introducing potentially hazardous activities such as hot works. This should be conducted by a person with the appropriate knowledge, training and experience, with awareness of the associated hazards and control measures.

Establishing designated hot work areas and requiring written hot work permits for any work outside of those areas, are the best means of achieving this.

  • Establishing designated areas – To establish when hot work permits are required, it is important that your customers designate areas. An efficient means of doing this is through updating their site’s general risk assessment to categorise these areas and for them to plot them on a site map or plan.

Areas can be categorised as follows:

  • Designated areasPermanent places specifically designed and intended for hot works.
  • Non-designated areas Places not designed for hot works, where a written permit is required.
  • Prohibited areasPlaces where hot works should never be permitted. This can include areas featuring fast-burning construction materials, such as polystyrene, or where other combustible liquids, gases or dusts are stored or used with no reasonable means of removing them.

Broker action: You could highlight the importance of completing a hot work permit programme and ensure you have checked the specific terms relating to the completion of a programme within your customer’s insurance policy.

Managing the permit process

It is important to recommend to your customers that their written hot work permit programme details the following process and that management periodically verifies that staff, contractors and sub-contractors are all following the programme:

  1. Review of less hazardous work methods
  2. Compile project-specific work method statements
  3. Check worker qualifications
  4. Work area risk assessment
  5. Authorisation to perform hot works
  6. Worker acknowledgement
  7. Periodic work areas inspections
  8. Final work area inspection
  9. Permit close out

Carefully review contractors’ terms

If your customers undertake larger projects, it is likely that the lead contractor will require them to sign a contract. It is common practice for some contracts to stipulate that insurance is taken out in the joint name of your customer and the contractor.

While joint names policies can have benefits for both parties, they also have important implications for how potential negligence claims are handled, in particular our ability to recover damages from a negligent contractor who is named jointly.

If offered a contract that includes reference to joint names, it is therefore important for you to ensure that your customers seek legal advice to understand the implications of their rights of recovery and insurance arrangements prior to any agreement being reached.

For more information on how your customers can establish an effective hot work permit programme, or to discuss the insurance implications of undertaking hot works, please speak to your local Zurich contact.

You can also find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our Fire Risk Resource.

Image © Getty

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