Don't Torch Your
By Universal Underwriters Group's
Loss Prevention Department
Fires started by cutting torches injure scores
of employees and cost the Automotive Recycling industry millions
of dollars each year. Being proactive in your loss prevention efforts
may save your business.
Cutting Torches + Combustible Materials = Disaster
High-temperature flames and materials that are easily ignited just
don't go well together. If these torches come into contact with
flammable liquids or gases, a full-fledged catastrophe can result.
Over the past year alone cutting torches and oxy-acetylene welders
have been the cause of entire dismantling and warehouse facilities
being burned to the ground, and worse yet, of near-fatal employee
Of course other factors are usually involved. Welding and cutting
being performed inside buildings where they shouldn't be. Employees
cutting on or close to automotive gas tanks, shock absorbers or
inside the trunk or passenger compartments where hot slag ignites
carpeting or insulation. Hot slag or extreme heat can cause carpeting
and wood to smolder for hours before bursting into flames - long
after your business closes, employees go home and there is anyone
to see or extinguish the fire.
Most facility managers in the dismantling business understand this
exposure, many know what controls are needed to prevent losses like
those described above, and a few others have implemented the changes
necessary to make their facilities safer.
Speed vs. Efficiency
Cutting torches are quite possibly the fastest way to remove parts
from a vehicle…but are they worth the risk? Are they the most
efficient method? First let's talk about the risks. If you are a
single point recycler, the very survival of your business may be
at risk. Catastrophic fires that burn facilities, inventory and
vital records are very difficult to recover from, even for large
corporations. The second and most critical asset "at risk"
are your employees. Employees at recycling facilities have suffered
extremely serious injuries while using torches. Most of them were
burned when the torch they were using ignited gas vapors, spilled
gasoline or explosive gases inside shock absorbers. Workers' compensation
claims and employees missing time at work do not improve efficiency.
In addition your insurance company may view the use of cutting torches
as an "extra hazardous" operation and it could affect
your desirability or insurability. Torches may be the fastest option
in the short-term, but are they most efficient in the long run?
Best Option: "Just Say No (Torches)"
One of the largest recycling companies in the country has banned
cutting torches altogether at some of their facilities. A near-catastrophic
fire at one facility convinced the plant manager that he had seen
enough and he made a decision: "No more torches". Citing
torches as "the lazy man's way of removing parts" he got
rid of all cutting torches on the property and went out and purchased
sawsalls. It took approximately a month for employees to adjust
to the change but after that the issue was settled. This location
has dismantled over 3,500 vehicles since then and has had "zero"
small fires or other problems.
It has become obvious that alternative tools including "Sawsalls"
and "Super Shears" are available to dismantlers. The bottom
line is this: eliminating cutting torches reduces your risk of suffering
a major fire.
Option Two: Restrict Use
Once again the best option is to eliminate torches altogether, but
barring that, you should control the use of this tool to the greatest
· Keep torches under "lock and key" and require
supervisors to sign them out to responsible, well-trained employees.
· Restrict use of torches to outdoor or other open areas.
Prohibit use of cutting torches inside buildings - especially those
housing warehouse and office operations.
· Closely supervise all cutting and welding operations to
ensure that all safety procedures and rules are followed.
More and more recyclers have made the decision to reduce the use
of torches in their facilities, or eliminate them all together.
They have determined that the use of torches is not worth the risk
to their businesses and employees. Evaluate their use around your
facility and ask yourself - "Can I do without them?" The
answer is "Yes".
Gerry Cecil is the National Account Executive
for the Special Account Services division of Universal Underwriters
Group. For more information about how Universal Underwriters Group,
Special Account Services can help your automotive recycling business
needs call 800-840-8842, ext. 4845, visit www.uuic.com/specaccts/ara.asp
or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.