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022_Fire While Soldering In a Permit Required Confined Space

Fire while Soldering in a Permit-Required Confined Space - Lessons Learned 022

The propane torch assembly involved in an incident where a propane leak around a fitting lead to a fire.

An employee was soldering pipes with a propane torch assembly in an area of a building designated as a permit-required confined space (PRCS). Before the work began, the employees involved in the project ensured that PRCS and hot work permits were completed, and other controls were in-place including proper personal protective equipment. After several days of performing the soldering work in the tight location, the compression fitting on the torch loosened when the employee was positioning to access new brazing joint locations.

When the fitting loosened, propane gas began to escape from the hose fitting. The employee quickly recognized the smell of propane gas; however, it was too late, and the gas leak caught fire. The other employee designated as the confined space attendant and fire watch immediately shut off the propane gas cylinder and extinguished the fire with the fire extinguisher brought to the jobsite. Before the soldering work began, there was no indication of any damage to the hose or fitting, however, it is unclear if a pre-use inspection of the equipment was completed prior to performing work each day.

Prior to conducting work, the employees involved implemented most of the necessary health and safety precautions to control potential hazards and minimize the impact of an incident they never thought would occur. The pair of employees had completed the appropriate permits, were monitoring the space for atmospheric hazards, and had a fire extinguisher immediately available to put out the fire. This incident proves that when you follow procedures, and safe work practices you can eliminate or minimize an unplanned event.

To prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future: 

Closeup of the propane torch fitting involved in the propane leak which resulted in a fire.
  • Always inspect your equipment prior to use. All equipment shall be in proper working order and free of damage. Any components that cannot be properly repaired must be tagged “out of service” and reported to your supervisor.
  • Evaluate each individual situation to determine if the inspection frequency needs to be increased.
  • If you have any questions regarding specific hot work or confined space entries, always reach out to your department’s safety professional to work through the task to ensure that the proper controls are in-place.
  • Ensure Hot Work and Confined Space training is completed and up to date.