What Is A Hot Works Permit And Why Do You Need One?

Fire Safety By Matthew Coombes

A hot works permit is a document produced as part of a ‘safe system of work’. This is a procedure specifically designed to reduce risks when carrying out specific tasks, or higher risk work.

In the case of a hot works permit, it’s often a printed and signed document produced to allow the holder of the completed document to carry out work that will produce heat.

Often this will include but is not limited to:

  • all forms of welding/cutting
  • grinding
  • use of blowtorches
  • heat guns
  • brazing
  • soldering
  • certain lighting

There are many instances where heat can cause a fire, explosion, or other unwanted effects and as such it is essential that no work can deliberately or accidentally take place that can cause heat.

A good example of this is an oxygen enriched atmosphere. As little as a 2% increase in oxygen content of air can create an enriched atmosphere, which is highly explosive.
A simple spark has the potential to set off this atmosphere causing a devastating explosion.

The permit itself

A hot works permit is typically a paper document which is signed and counter-signed by all parties with the authority to say that the work can take place. This is normally specific managers or supervisors. Typically, at least two must sign, but sometimes more signatures are required. Once both have agreed to the work taking place, the document will be filed with the permit handler to give final approval that everything is in order, allowing or denying the work from taking place. On larger sites, the permit handler may be a specific and full-time role.

Why go to all this trouble?

It’s standardised

Being a standardised procedure means that there are set steps that you must follow – in order to do X you must first do Y. This means that everything is always completed in the same way, all workers can be made aware of the process and everyone can be reasonably expected to follow it.

Where significant risks have been identified, a safe system of work must be followed to ensure safety of all of those involved. If only one manager signs off the hot works, there is a chance that they may have forgotten something important, and an accident, fire or explosion could occur. By having multiple people sign off the document, the risk of human error is reduced.

Having a person with final say over whether work takes place is another layer of protection against human factors, and on larger sites can ensure that everyone is following the standardised procedure.

There may be additional steps after the hot work

Sometimes it’s necessary for an individual to carry out a ‘fire watch’ after hot work has taken place. A hot works permit and a safe system of work ensures that you will have a person available to carry out the fire watch after the hot works are completed.

Many hot works processes create a large amount of heat, and sometimes this will be absorbed into whatever is being worked on.

A good example of why this is important comes from welding. When welding with an oxy acetylene mixture, the intention is to get the metal to heat to the point where it melts, allowing you to fuse one or more pieces of metal together. Metal is a very good conductor of heat, so while the metal is absorbing the heat directly in contact with it, that heat can travel.

If you weld a metal object which is in contact with other objects it can pass on the heat. This can cause a fire in another area which may go completely unnoticed.

While welding is taking place in one room, a fire watch may be needed after work is completed, or in an adjacent room while work is undertaken.

When is a hot works permit not needed?

When hot works are taking place frequently, or materials are able to be worked on before they are installed, sometimes a site will set up an exclusion zone. This will be an area (often open air), set away from the working area, and away from any combustible materials. Workers will be able to take materials into the exclusion zone and work on them, without having to obtain a permit.

This will allow for hot work to be completed in an environment with reduced risk, allowing workers to quickly carry out tasks that it would be unreasonable to expect a signed document for. This includes tasks on a smaller scale such as welding, cutting, grinding etc.

What if someone ignores the hot works permit?

Wilfully ignoring a safe system of work is a breach of the employee’s duties to not increase risks to health and safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974). Deliberately not complying with a hot works permit will get you removed from the site, taken off the job, possibly fired and depending on the circumstances you may also be prosecuted for breaching the act.


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