Careless use of welding and cutting tools can cause fires which may destroy business, delay production and injure or kill. However, these tragedies need not occur if reasonable precautions are taken.
Permanent welding and cutting operations conducted in safely designed production areas are generally not the source of welding and cutting caused fires. It is portable equipment used on construction or repair work done near combustible materials that cause the greatest number of welding and cutting fires. Therefore, extreme caution should be exercised when working with portable equipment.
Unfortunately, many precautions which should be exercised simply are not, because (1) everyone is in a hurry to get the job done quickly and economically and (2) management may not recognize and emphasize the seriousness of a fire. Therefore, it is imperative that the cutter/ welder, his supervisor and management all share the full responsibility for the safe use of cutting/welding equipment.
Management should do the Following:
- Establish approved areas for cutting and welding or establish procedures for approving cutting and welding operations.
- Designate an individual to be responsible for authorizing cutting and welding operations in areas not specifically designed or approved for such processes.
- Insist that only approved equipment be used.
- Insist that all cutters, welders, and their supervisors are properly trained in the operation of the equipment and emergency procedures in the event of a fire.
- Select outside contractors, when needed, on the basis of properly trained personnel who are aware of the risks involved in cutting or welding.
- Advise all contractors about any flammable materials or hazardous conditions.
The Supervisor (Foreman, Plant Engineer, Plant Manager, etc.) should do the Following:
- Be responsible for the safe handling of equipment and safe use of the process.
- Determine what combustible materials and hazards are likely to be present.
- Protect the combustibles from ignition by removal or shielding.
- Make certain any operations that might expose combustibles to ignition are not started during cutting or welding.
- Be sure proper fire extinguishing equipment is located at the work site.
- See that fire watchers are trained and present at the site.
- Secure a welding/cutting permit from the management designated individual responsible for such authorization.
The Cutter/Welder should do the Following:
- Cut or weld only after being certain all equipment and surrounding conditions are safe.
- Receive written approval to cut or weld from the responsible supervisor.
- Continue to work only as long as approved work conditions remain unchanged!