Fire is well recognised as a major threat to the activities of the University. An outbreak of even a small fire creates risk to both life and property, damage to the environment and may prevent us from carrying out our normal business activities. Activities capable of causing accidental ignition are regularly carried out throughout the University and can form an essential part of the work activities of some Colleges, Schools and Service departments. The term "hot work" is commonly used to describe some of these activities.
Examples of such work might include the use of blowlamps, welding equipment, grinding and cutting equipment, hot air guns, portable gas heating appliances etc. Where these activities are carried out in designated areas where such work forms part of the routine use of the area, e.g. within workshops or laboratories, the risks should be assessed and managed along with any other work in the area.
Although such work is entirely legitimate, the risk from it do have to be recognised and it is appropriate for precautions to be in place to control and minimise the risk of fire breaking out.
As part of their general risk assessment procedures all management units should already have arrangements are in place to identify tasks/activities where the risk of fire may exist, and shoudl have procedures are in place to eliminate or reduce these risks. One aim of the risk assessment process should be to identify when it may be appropriate to manage the work by means of a "Hot Work Permit".
In many cases, work will be identified as routine and will be carried out in a controlled environment designed or intended for that purpose e.g. use of bunsen burners within a laboratory environment, use of soldering equipment in electronics workshop, welding in a designated welding bay etc. In these cases the risks are likely to be readily identifiable in advance by the normal risk assessment process and appropriate control measures implemented into the normal working practices. Routine work of this nature which is carried out in a suitable environment will not normally require management by means of a "Hot Work Permit" system.
Hot Work Permit System
Where hot work is conducted outwith the controlled environments indicated above (typically as part of a maintenance task) the risk of fire is increased. It is the University's policy that a "Hot Work Permit" system should be used to manage such activities. This involves the issue of a "Permit to Work" by the person responsible for managing the work to the individual who will carry it out and is a well established system within industry.
This system should be applied to all hot work operations whether it is carried out by University staff or contractors engaged by them. Estates operate a permit system and work under their control should be done in accordance with their established procedures.
In assessing whether a particular task should be managed by a hot work permit system or may reasonably be considered as routine work those managing the work may need to exercise a degree of judgement. In general, all hot work carried out by contractors is very likely to be non-routine and require management by a Hot Work Permit system.
Schools or Services who are based in premises controlled by other organisations e.g. hospitals should adopt similar procedures but should ensure that they are compatible with any arrangements that may already be in place within the host organisation.