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All about hot works on plumbing and heating applications

The definition of Hot Work is from the HSE and is the “use of open fires, flames and work involving the application of heat by means of tools or equipment”(HSE, 2023). The types of tools that are used to create heat or flames are welding, brazing, soldering but also applicable are the tools that create hot side effects like grinding and cutting. There is also the use of open flames to heat material that is required to change its composition in order to be applied, for instance bitumen. These are common examples but the HSE have defined these and more to be at risk of causing a fire or significant risk to health and safety of users and the building they are operating in. The use of leaded solder in soldering is known to be a causing of cancer and toxic fumes from lots of hot work processes can cause long-lasting side effects. This is why companies have a responsibility to the workers and the safety of the site.

Hazards from Hot works

There are lots of hazards from hot works and these can include, flying hot debris (sparks), flammable swarf, metals, cinder and fillings. The heating of pipe and fittings can also cause issues further along the system and impact other users. There is also the side effects from heating gases, materials and the vapours can be explosive or flammable. Hot works are potential disasters for a business with liability insurance increasing year on year and the cost to rebuild or fix a damaged area often effecting further policy negotiations. There is also the future liability on health of the workers that can be seen decades after and is now highly enforceable. The loss on hot works related fires over a two year period was estimated at £250 million (Zurich, 2021).

How to eliminate hot works

There is hot works control measures in the form of risk assessment, training and keeping up to date with the latest legislations from the HSE and other industry bodies. These controls include elimination, substitution and administration. Unpacking each one of these controls and in reverse order the administration is complex and requires major investment by a firm in PPE, safety measures and controls. The substitution is an option as it means replacing hot works with cold ones, such as press-fittings and the using of a press gun ( Z-Press by Zupper). The elimination of hot works entirely complements the substitution but entails more replacement of materials rather that adaption of methods, This is why changing the method of soldering or brazing to press is a great example of eliminating and substituting hot works, The investment in a M-Profile Press gun from Z-Press is insignificant against the costs of insurance, hot works permits and the liability to employees. The administration is alone a unmeasured cost which if removed can speed up works and actually improve tendering option and allow installers options to tend for different projects.