Chapter 13: Hot Work – Welding and Cutting




When cutting and welding activities (and associated tasks like brazing and soldering) are undertaken, potential health and safety hazards can exist. A welding arc is hot enough that it can melt steel, and the light it emits can blind. Hazards such as fire, burns, injuries to sight, and respiratory consequences from fumes, gases, sparks, hot metal and radiant energy are the principle hazards. Some hot work equipment produces high voltages or can utilize compressed gases, which can be hazards by themselves. Hazards associated with hot work can be appreciably reduced through implementation of effective control programs. These operations are generally found in facilities work, but can also be present in science research functions or Art Departments. OSHA requires that adequate controls and procedures are in place for hot work to be performed. (29 CFR 1910.252-255)


There are 3 basic types of welding operations:

  • Oxygen-Fuel Gas Welding: Oxygen-fuel gas welding is joining metal by generating extremely high heat during combustion.
  • Resistance Welding: Resistance welding is joining or cutting metals by generating heat through resistance created by the flow of electrical current.
  • Arc Welding: Arc welding is joining or cutting metals by generating heat from electric arc that extends between the welding electrode and the electrode placed on the equipment being welded.


Contact OEMS for Hot Work approval and Fire System Deactivation.

  1. Hot Work Areas: Hot Work areas should be properly designated and prepared. The area should not pose a hazard to others in nearby areas. If possible, such work should be confined to properly designed shop areas equipped with necessary controls and proper ventilation.
  2. Combustible and Flammable Materials: Combustible and flammable materials should be placed at least 3 feet from the work site, but if this is not possible, metal guards or flame-proof curtains or other appropriate covers should be used to create a barrier and protect them.
  3. Welding Machine Operators: Employees operating welding equipment should be restricted to authorized and properly trained employees.
  4. Floor Covers: Floor covers within 35 feet of the work area should be sufficient to prevent sparks from falling beneath the floor or to a lower level.
  5. PPE: Personal Protective Equipment such as tinted shields shall be used to protect operators from burns and ultra-violet light exposure. Other PPE may also be necessary, depending on the exact nature of the work. They might include aprons, leggings, safety shoes, protective helmet, ear protection, eye protection and respiratory protection. When working above ground, use a platform with toe boards and standard railings or a safety harness and lifeline.
  6. Stone and Cement Surfaces: Never aim a welding torch at a cement or stone surface. Moisture in the material could cause them to explode when they reach a certain temperature.
  7. Inspect Equipment Before Using: Equipment found to have bare conductors or damaged regulators, torches, electrode holders, or other defective components should not be used.
  8. Warnings: When finished welding or cutting, warn other workers of hot metal by marking or putting up a clearly visible sign.
  9. Electrode and Rod Stubs: These should not be left on the floor and shall be disposed of properly.
  10. Tools: Tools should be stored safely when work is completed.


A person other than the operator should perform fire watch duties and remain at the work site for at least 60 minutes after hot work operations have ended. A fire extinguisher rated at not less than 2-A:20-B:C (10lb ABC Extinguisher) must be present during ALL welding, brazing, and cutting operations. If a building is equipped with a sprinkler system, the system must be operational at the time hot work is done.


Compressed gas come in 2 basic varieties – flammable and non-flammable.

  • Flammable Compressed Gas: Flammable compressed gases have dangers besides high pressure. These gases can easily catch fire and burn rapidly. These include acetylene, hydrogen, natural gas and propane.
  • Nonflammable Compressed Gas: These types of gases do not catch fire easily or burn quickly, but they will eventually burn and do possess other dangers.

The cylinder label and MSDS will describe the toxic properties and physical hazards posed by specific nonflammable compressed gases. These include

  • Ammonia
  • Argon
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Nitrogen
  • Oxygen
  • Chlorine
  • Nitrous Oxide

Generally speaking, they can cause dizziness, unconsciousness, or suffocation under certain circumstances. They can also be harmful if inhaled, and can cause irritation to eyes, nose, throat and lungs.


A primary danger of oxygen-fuel gas welding operations stems from welding with compressed gas cylinders (CGC) containing oxygen and acetylene. If CGC’s are damaged, gas can escape with tremendous force and the vessel itself can explode, causing severe injuries. One particularly deadly condition is called “rocketing”. Rocketing occurs when a CGC ruptures and is propelled with such force that it can penetrate a concrete wall.


  • Cylinders should be secured in the upright position to prevent tipping.
  • Regulators must be compatible with the cylinder and its content. Many regulators are similar in design and construction, so it is necessary to check the regulator’s model number and compare it with the cylinder’s requirements to ensure compatibility.
  • Cylinder carts equipped with cylinder restraints such as a chain or strap shall be used for transporting CGC’s. Never drop cylinders or let things fall on them.
  • Do not accept delivery of acetylene CGC’s that arrive in the horizontal position. Transporting in this manner makes them much more susceptible to explosion.
  • CGC’s should be inspected before using to check for leaking, corrosion, cracking, burn marks, contaminated valves, worn hoses and faulty connectors, or broken gauges. If any defective condition is discovered, the CGC should not be used.
  • Never open valves until regulators are drained of gas and pressure adjusting devices are released. When opening CGC’s, point outlets away from people and sources of ignition Open valves slowly. On valves without handle wheels, use only supplier recommended wrenches. On valves with handle wheels, never use wrenches. Never hammer a handle wheel open or closed.
  • Empty Cylinders: When cylinders are empty, close and return them. Empty CGC’s must be marked “MT” or “Empty”.
  • Protective Valve Caps: Protective calve caps should be in place on the CGC when it is placed into storage. This will reduce the likelihood that a blow to the valve will result in leakage.
  • Barriers: When being stored, CGC’s should be stored at least 20 feet apart and they should also be separated by a noncombustible wall at least 5 feet high.
  • First In, First Out: When stored, CGC’s should be arranged in such a way that old stock will be used before new stock.


Ventilation techniques for welding apparitions vary depending on size and type. For basic operations, wall fans should suffice. Be aware, however, that ventilation should never be relied on as the only way to protect employees when air contaminants are toxic. Where ventilation is poor, respirator use should be evaluated before engaging in the activity.


All persons performing hot work shall be trained in proper equipment operation, handling and storage of welding materials, compressed gas safety, and chemical hazards. Additional training may be necessary in proper selection and use of Personal Protective Equipment, as well as training in confined space entry where appropriate. (Some instances require proof of certification, such as pressure vessel repair)


UMW has a Hot Work Permit requirement for all open flame work done on UMW properties. Hot Work permits are secured from OEMS located in Hamlet House. OEMS will inspect the area for hazards and issue the permit. Permits are issued for daily operations only. All flammable materials must be removed or covered with nonflammable protection. Fire watches must be provided for all hot work tasks and must be trained in applicable extinguisher usage. Fire Watch must remain in place for 60 mins after the work is completed. All Contractors and UMW employees are required to secure Hot Work permits. Alternative issuance of Hot Work Permits is authorized, and the list of personnel authorized for issuance is available from UMW OEMS. All permits issued are to be authorized by UMW OEMS via telephone or electronic means.