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Hot Work Safety: The New NFPA 51B Standard for Fire Watch

Fire is the biggest fear in the industrial manufacturing and construction industries.

The 2019 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report, “Structure Fires Caused by Hot Work”(any work involving burning, welding, or a similar operation that is capable of initiating fires or explosions), found that 4,630 structure fires per year involved hot work. The consequences were devastating: an average of 15 civilian deaths, 5 firefighter deaths, 198 civilian injuries, and $355 million in direct property damages per year. 

With risks as great as these, fire prevention and fire safety should always be top priorities.

The New NFPA 51B Standard for Fire Prevention

Among the standards and best practices for safely performing hot work is employing a ‘Fire Watch.’ The NFPA defines a Fire Watch as ‘The assignment of a person or persons to an area for the express purpose of:

  • notifying the fire department, the building occupants, or both of an emergency
  • preventing a fire from occurring
  • extinguishing small fires
  • protecting the public from fire or life safety dangers.

Fire watch personnel can be internal, or hired outside contractors from safety companies like Hux Safety Solutions.

Previously, under the NFPA 51B Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work, it was recommended that a 30 minute fire watch be maintained after the completion of hot work operations in order to detect and extinguish any smoldering fires. But many are unaware that the NFPA 51B fire code underwent some amendments in 2019—the guidelines now state that “A fire watch shall be maintained for 1 hour after completion of hot work operations” (NFPA 51B, Section 5.6.1.1).

It is important to note that NFPA 51B is required by reference, and therefore, compliance is not optional. OSHA references NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work, in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart Q, and NFPA 1, Fire Code, requires compliance with NFPA 51B in Chapter 41.

It is imperative to be aware of the latest guidance and mandate fire watch for a full hour following any burning, welding, or similar operations within your organization.

Hux Safety Solutions is Raising the Bar For Safety

At Hux Safety Solutions, we pride ourselves on staying meticulously up-to-date with industry safety guidelines and laws per the NFPA and OSHA, and swiftly adopting them into our safety training and services.

But our fire safety solutions don’t stop at simply meeting the NFPA standard for fire prevention. Here are just some of the ways we’ve been redefining and raising the bar on fire safety for years:

  • We work with local fire departments to employ certified firefighters for our Fire Watch Services. These professionals are highly trained to recognize inherent fire hazards at the work site and with hot work operations—and highly trained in operating fire-extinguishing equipment quickly and effectively should it be necessary. 
  • At Hux, we provide all the necessary tools for fire protection, such as hoses, nozzles, fire blankets, and fire extinguishers. All of our tools and equipment are top of the line and diligently tested and maintained to ensure proper function when it counts.
  • We provide firefighting foam that is excellent for fire suppression. The foam separates the fuel from the oxygen—effectively helping to put out fires. While firefighting foam has been shown to have harmful health implications for firefighters, the foam used in our fire watch services (which can be used for all classes of fires) is 100% biodegradable, non-hazardous, and considered safe for users.

Hux Safety Solutions Fire Watch services were born as a solution to short staffing at many of the plants we serve. Providing a firefighter for the fire watch position frees up plant staff for other duties. Facilities are also often short on hoses and other tools proportionate to the amount of hot work being performed. Providing tools and personnel not only lifts the burden for our customers, but maximizes the protection of their employees and production.

Going Forward

OSHA and the NFPA exist to promote the utmost workplace safety and protect workers from needless injury or fatality. It is critical, and indeed required, to comply with their standards for fire prevention and fire safety. Remember that fires can start after the hot work is complete—the fire watch must remain on site for a minimum of 60 minutes to monitor for smoldering fires, per the latest in NFPA 51B.

Hux Safety Solutions is your one stop shop for building a comprehensive safety training regimen. We are eager to provide your facility with the valuable training needed to guarantee safety on the job and compliance with OSHA and the NFPA.

Contact Hux Safety Solutions today for certified & professional Fire Watch services and to learn about our unique approach to ensuring our rescue team is staffed to meet or exceed industry standards and guidelines.