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Hot Work - The Basics and Need to Know Safety Hazards

As an HVAC, plumbing or electrical contractor, workplace safety is (or, should be) one of your top concerns and priorities. Your work environment often consists of dangerous surroundings and exposes you, and your team, to potentially harmful machinery, or tools.

For most contractors, the nature of the industry and service provided typically falls under hot work.

What is hot work and how does it impact contractors?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), hot work is “any work that involves burning, welding, using fire- or spark-producing tools, or that uses a source of ignition.”

As you know, contractors come into contact with dangerous chemicals, tools and surroundings each day on the job. Whether you’re a plumber, electrician or HVAC technician, burns and fires are serious concerns.

Some equipment or tools that contractors often come into contact with that can cause burns, sparks or fires include:

  • Hot water tanks
  • Air conditioning units
  • Open electrical circuits, wires, power bars and electrical fittings
  • Live wiring
  • Circuit boxes
  • Power lines
  • Gas lines

Contractors also often work in small, confined spaces, which create an even bigger risk for injury or fires when working with dangerous equipment and tools. Burns, electrocutions and fires are not uncommon. In fact, in 2015 electrocutions accounted for 8.6% of all worker fatalities in the construction industry—making it the third leading cause of death.

And, the top most frequently cited OSHA violations in 2016 include machinery and machine guarding, electrical wiring methods and electrical systems design.

To help minimize worker injuries and structural fire damage, hot work should only be performed in designated or permit-required areas, and protected by a variety of safeguards.