During these cold months, we need portable heaters around the jobsite and at home. But using such heaters can be risky. Space heaters can cause burns and fires, and can create carbon monoxide. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fires and explosions accounted for 3% of all workplace fatalities in 2012. Sawdust, solvents, rags, paints, building materials, etc. can make the jobsite a tinderbox. All of these fuels need to be kept away from portable heaters.
Follow these portable heater safety guidelines to avoid the fires and injuries that portable heaters can cause:
1. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation and operating Instructions.
2. Inspect portable gas and electric heaters on a regular basis and clean them often to make sure they are in safe working condition.
3. Never use a defective heater.
4. Put the heater on a stable, level surface away from foot traffic.
5. Enforce a 3-foot exclusion zone around heaters.
6. Keep all combustibles like wood, plastics, cardboard, sawdust, paper, and clothes away from the heater.
7. Don’t use extension cords to power portable heaters. Using extension cords increases the likelihood of fire due to overloading and inductive heating.
8. Never leave a portable heater unattended If it’s running. Shut It down before you leave.
9. Avoid getting shocked or electrocuted: keep portable electric heaters away from water and damp locations.
10. Use portable gas heaters with adequate ventilation. They can produce dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide if not vented properly.
11. Never use flammable liquids around portable heaters. Vapors or a spill could cause a flash fire.
12. Never run a heater’s cord under a rug, mat, or carpet.
13. Never use gasoline as a fuel source.
14. Always refuel portable heaters outside and clean up spills Immediately.
15. When you buy a heater, choose one with a tip-over safety switch that automatically shuts the heater off If it gets tipped over.
16. On a cold day, when you go Into the warm-up area, remember to keep clear of the heater. It’s human nature to get nice and close to the heater to warm your legs and back. But If you stand too close, your clothing can catch on fire. Always be aware of your surroundings so you don’t go up In flames.
Only qualified personnel should fix a broken heater. A jury-rigged heater Is a fire waiting to happen.