Permits Improve Safety In Cutting and Welding
Our first thought concerning fire must be prevention. Is prevention costly or is suppression? There is in my mind and experience no comparison to prevention vs. suppression. Prevention is the key to lower fire losses, lower insurance rates, more productive industry, employee safety and the total cost of fire in the United States. Prevention should be the goal of all of us in the fire safety field.
Welding and cutting fires are common and caused an estimated $9 million loss, or roughly about 4 percent of the estimated total industrial fire losses in the nation, in 1966. These losses can be prevented. Prevention involves supervision of workers, enforcement of reasonable regulations, the backing of management and the use of printed permit systems for controlling welding and cutting.
No delay of job: Using permits is simple, but the most difficult message to get management and employees to accept is the one that these permits do not delay the work. The permit allows the work to be done with dispatch and safety, and when we say safety, we mean to the employee as well as the plant.
A typical welding and cutting permit is reproduced here with the realization that it may not fit your particular use, but it will serve as a guide.
The upper half of the front of the tag has space for the date, welder’s name, time job was started and finished, identification of the building, department and floor, location of the job on the floor, and nature of the job. There is a line for the maintenance foreman’s signature at the end of this. The lower half of the tag has lines for signatures of the department head, fire chief and maintenance foreman. Any one of these signatures is sufficient. This reduces the possibility of delay in obtaining approval for the work. There is a third signature line for the fire watch to use after the final inspection.
Tags to be filed: A note at the bottom orders the tags to be filed so they will be available for any checkup on the permit system by insurance company, fire department, state or rating bureau inspectors.
On the back of the card are eight rules, summarized as follows:
- Get a written permit for welding and cutting anywhere except in a permanent welding area.
- Make sure sprinklers and/or hose lines are in service.
- Sweep area, wet down wood floors or cover them with noncombustible tarpaulins or sheet metal. (Sparks and molten metal range upward from 2,000°F.)
- Move combustible material 35 feet away and protect what can’t be moved.
- Have a fire watch with extinguishing equipment to watch sparks. (The cost of one man watching for fire may prevent a fire loss of thousands of dollars.)
- Don’t cut or weld near flammable liquids or closed tanks that have held them. Remove inside deposits before working on ducts.
- Keep cutting and welding equipment in good condition and follow manufacturer’s instructions for use and maintenance. (Because work is usually done on machinery coated with oil and grease, each outfit should have a dry chemical extinguisher of at least 5-pound capacity.)
- Watch for smoldering fires for a half hour or more, if necessary, after finishing a job. Inspect adjacent rooms and floors above and below. The fire watch must turn in the permit after completing the watch. (Many fires are discovered hours after a job has been finished because a careful check of the area, including concealed spaces, was not made.)
At the bottom of the tag is a note reminding workers that whenever cutting and welding equipment is used, except in the maintenance shop, the tag must be displayed on the rig or the welder.
Can all fires caused by cutting and welding be prevented? No one can guarantee this, but with proper control, we can prevent a major portion of them.