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Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009

Profiles in Safety...

Hot Work Re-Inspections Can Prevent Fires and May Even Save a Life

krigbaum“Construction work requires a hot work or fire safety permit,” says Amie Krigbaum, the Lab’s Fire Inspector, “because construction workers often use welding or brazing equipment and chop saws that can produce sparks or enough heat to cause a fire.” So it’s not a surprise that her busiest months in 2009 were August and September, when several infrastructure improvement projects went into high gear as a result of the Lab’s receipt of more than $100 million in federal government stimulus funds. Despite Krigbaum’s unusually busy year-end schedule, she managed to prevent fires and to save a life.

During an inspection at Building 77, Krigbaum noticed workers in paper suits. Recalling a fatal hot-work accident at another national lab, where a spark entered the full-body suit of a welder working alone, Krigbaum didn’t hesitate to intervene and stop work. “Since you’re not allowed to have any hot work near a paper suit, I stopped them and contacted the construction manager,” she says. She demonstrated that their use of a Sawzall, a blade device that generally doesn’t generate many sparks, did create enough sparks to require a hot work permit. Together, they modified the work process, allowing the workers to switch to cotton suits to protect themselves from dust while also protecting them from any sparks. The workers completed the project safely, and September ended with zero hot-work incidents at the Lab.

For this kind of safety record, Krigbaum works hard every day. She inspects about 160 hot work sites monthly towards the end of the fiscal year. It helps when everyone respects the hot-work process, even veteran hot-work operators unaccustomed to Lab policy. “Sometimes someone will say, ‘I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I know what I’m doing,’ but I still help them along, because we don’t want any fires at the Lab, even small ones.

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