What is a hot works permit and why do you need one?

  • Zurich claims data reveals that hot works are responsible for up to 15% of all fires in commercial and industrial properties
  • A written hot work permit programme is an essential part of facility risk management, and a requirement of most property insurance policies
  • We explain how to implement a permit programme to ensure legal, regulatory and insurance compliance

Hot work is regularly undertaken during construction and maintenance projects, but it is a potentially risky activity which requires careful and active risk management.

Over a ten-year period, fires in the UK linked to hot works caused an estimated £100m of damage.

We explain how to implement a simple permit programme to effectively identify and manage the added risks of hot works.

What are hot works?

Hot works include any operation that uses open flames or the local application of heat and friction. Examples include:

  • Welding
  • Soldering
  • Torch cutting
  • Grinding
  • Hot riveting
  • Heat applied to roof coverings (particularly in relation to replacement of felt coverings on flat roofs)

It is important to be aware of the full range of activities that constitute hot works, not only those that involve open flames, and ensure that proper processes are in place to manage the additional risks that accompany them.

The dangers of hot works

Hot works are frequently used during construction, demolition, renovation and maintenance. As the name suggests, they present a heightened fire risk by involving the use of heat, or the creation of sparks and other sources of ignition.

An analysis of Zurich’s claims data reveals that hot works are responsible for 10-15% of all fires in commercial and industrial properties.

Evidence also shows that one of the most common hot work activities, welding, is involved in 1,000 accidents in the UK each year, leading to around 300 serious injuries.

The importance of a written hot work permit programme

Developing and implementing a written hot work permit programme is an essential component of effective facility risk management.

Whether they are being undertaken by your own staff or external contractors, hot works should always be authorised, monitored and documented.

It is important to note that most property insurance policies will include specific terms requiring the use of a written hot work permit programme. Having a programme in place, and periodically checking for compliance, will help to ensure you are meeting the legal, regulatory and insurance requirements that accompany hot works.

Creating and implementing your permit programme

Your hot work permit programme should be tailored to the needs of each specific location and should look to include the following fundamental aspects:

General risk assessment – risk assessments should be undertaken when introducing potentially hazardous activities such as hot works. They should be conducted by a person with the appropriate knowledge, training and experience, with awareness of the associated hazards and control measures. Establishing designated hot work areas and requiring written hot work permits for any work outside of those areas, is the best way of achieving this. An example hot work permit can be found in our download section.

Establishing designated areas – to establish when hot work permits are required, it is important to designate areas. An efficient way of doing this is to update your site’s general risk assessment to categorise these areas and plot them on a site map or plan. Areas can be categorised as follows:

  • Designated areas – permanent places specifically designed and intended for hot works
  • Non-designated areas – places not designed for hot works, where a written permit is required
  • Prohibited areas – places where hot works should never be permitted. These can include areas featuring fast-burning construction materials, such as polystyrene, or where other combustible liquids, gases or dusts are stored or used with no reasonable means of removing them.

Managing the hot work permit process

It is recommended that your written hot work permit programme details the following process, and that management carries out regular checks throughout the duration of the hot works, to verify that staff, contractors and sub-contractors are all following the programme:

  1. Review of less hazardous work methods
  2. Compile project-specific work method statements
  3. Check worker qualifications
  4. Work area risk assessment
  5. Authorisation to perform hot works
  6. Worker acknowledgement
  7. Periodic work area inspections
  8. Final work area inspection
  9. Permit close out

Each element of the process is explained fully in our Risk Topics guidance note, which can be found in the download section.

Carefully review contractors’ terms

If undertaking larger projects, it is likely that the lead contractor will require you to sign a contract. It is common practice for some contracts to stipulate that insurance is taken out in the joint name of you and your contractor.

While joint name policies can have benefits for both parties, they also have important implications for how potential negligence claims are handled, in particular your insurer’s ability to recover damages from a negligent contractor who is named jointly.

If offered a contract that includes reference to joint names, it is important to seek legal advice to understand the implications concerning your rights of recovery and insurance arrangements prior to any agreement being reached.

For more information on managing hot works risks, please see our in-depth guide to hot works safety.

You can also find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our Fire Risk Resource.