Welding around vehicles

In motor trade premises it can sometimes be difficult to avoid welding close to vehicle fuel tanks and/or combustible components and materials.

Welding, by whatever means, is already a hazardous activity due to the flammable gases involved in the process and it causes hundreds of fires every year in the UK1.

The risk of a fire or explosion during welding activities can be a deadly one that can also cause extensive property damage and serious injuries, so you should be doing all that you can to reduce and manage the hazards.

  • Confirm that both your fire safety and health and safety risk assessments look at, amongst other things, all of the significant hazards that relate to your welding equipment and its use.

    - Eliminate hazards where possible and devise appropriate control measures where you can’t.
  • Make sure that when any vehicles are brought inside any of your buildings they are prominently marked with their fuel type (e.g. LPG) and employees who may weld on or near to them are made aware that they are of that type.
  • Take suitable precautions depending on the welding equipment used as fire and explosion risks not only stem from the activity itself (i.e. one that creates heat, sparks or flames) but also from the type of equipment used, e.g. the hazards that may arise from oxy-fuel type welding sets will be different to those stemming from electric arc welding types.
  • Ensure that you always comply with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) and additional regulations as applicable e.g. in relation to the use of oxy-fuel equipment).
  • Follow the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance on precautions against electric shocks when carrying out tasks that involve arc welding and arc brazing.
  • Be aware that the fire service may take additional safety precautions wherever oxy/acetylene welding/cutting sets are used or stored, causing delays and disruptions. A safer, practical alternative should always be used if that is an option.
  • Look for a safer alternative to acetylene gas cylinders where possible as they are highly unstable once they have been heated by a fire and can explode, causing significant damage and risking injury to anyone nearby.

    - Ensure that you are aware of the requirements of the Acetylene Safety (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2014. Pay particular attention to the sections relating to the provision of pressure regulation devices, flame arrestors, gas non-return devices and quick-acting shut-off devices on connected equipment.
  • Provide suitable safe system of work (SSOW) documents to cover welding activities. Ensure that these cover what needs to be done to a vehicle to make it safe before welding commences (particularly the removal or protection of combustible trim, upholstery and carpeting, fuel lines and fuel tank foam plastic filled body cavities). Include the 'dos and don’ts' for the different types of vehicles and vehicle fuelling systems employees may work with, e.g. LPG, LNG, electric, hybrid, hydrogen/fuel cell type.
  • Only allow suitably trained and competent employees with prescribed personal protective equipment (PPE) to use welding equipment. Beware of the risk posed by induction heating tools to any person with a cardiac pacemaker or other kind of electronic or metal surgical implant.
  • Record all training and instruction provided.
  • Undertake welding in safe, suitable, clean and tidy risk assessed areas free of unnecessary combustibles and flammables.
  • Don’t permit the repair of a fuel tank (including a diesel tank) without first having a risk assessment completed by a competent person and a SSOW procedure put into place. Take HSE guidance into account and avoid ’hot work’ where possible by considering safer options. For instance, replacing damaged components instead of repairing them, or use cold cutting or cold repair techniques.
  • Make sure that you have adequate emergency procedures in place and the correct fire-fighting equipment is to hand and in working order.
  • Have welding equipment regularly inspected as part of a recorded planned preventative maintenance schedule.
  • Don’t permit heat to be applied to containers, tanks or drums that may contain flammable residues.
  • Replace hoses if they’re damaged or perished – before they start to leak. Use only suitable proprietary leak detection sprays and don’t allow unsuitable liquids (e.g. washing up liquid) to be used for leak detection purposes as they can actually cause a leak, risking the ignition of the gas (if flammable).
  • Never carry out hot work on any wheel to which a tyre is fitted. Hot work includes welding, cutting, grinding and sawing and particularly the application of heat to free rusted on bolts. The inflation of tyres with nitrogen does not make hot work on wheels safe.
  • Use local exhaust ventilation (LEV) wherever possible, and especially in confined locations or when welding stainless steel; Also when surface treatments, such as paint, paint underseal and galvanized coatings may be affected by heat from the welding or flame-cutting.

    - This LEV should be examined and tested by a competent person at least once every 14 months.
  • Ask your insurance broker to make you aware of any terms or conditions (which apply under current or proposed insurances) relevant to welding or similar ‘hot work’.
Find information on regulations that you and your business may need to comply with.
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For more general guidance about welding and hot work, not necessarily in the motor trades, then refer to our health and safety risk topic page on the matter.