Originally published 12/2/2015
We commonly use temporary heaters on construction jobsites during winter months. When we use them correctly, heaters make our work environment more comfortable and safe. However, when we use them incorrectly, they can add a significant level of risk to an already dangerous environment, as they can to start fires and lead to explosions.
You should always inspect heaters prior to operating them. We use them seasonally and often store them for long periods of time. When we move a heater from one location to another, we may damage it, so look closely for telltale signs before and during initial use.
Before using any space heater or other temporary heating device, make sure the manufacturer approves it for the environment in which you intend to use it. Manufacturers make portable heating devices specifically for construction sites. The manufacturer’s specifications should explain how and where you may safely use the heater.
Make sure there is adequate ventilation in the room where you place the heater, and provide mechanical ventilation when there’s an inadequate natural fresh air supply.
Ask these questions when you’re selecting a heater:
- Is the unit approved for direct contact with the floor/surface on which you plan to use it?
- Does the unit consume oxygen?
- Does it radiate heat and/or force heated air across the room?
Things to keep in mind when you’re using a heater:
- Although the heater might not look hot, it could severely burn you if you touch it.
- If a manufacturer hasn’t approved a heater’s use on wood (or other combustible material) surfaces, don’t use it there. You must place this type of heater on suitable heat-insulating material, such as one-inch concrete masonry blocks. Establish a safe perimeter that extends beyond the heater in all directions.
- Place temporary heaters a safe distance from all combustible materials, such as tarpaulins, trash, wood or similar materials. Secure the materials to prevent wind from moving them closer to the heater.
- Manufacturers intend for you to use most temporary heating devices in a horizontal position. Unless the manufacturer permits it, don’t attempt to use them otherwise.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, so it will be available immediately in the event of a fire.
Prevent accidents and injuries from occurring, plan for heater use and ensure you have sound safety procedures in place. Consider the jobsite’s conditions and requirements before selecting a temporary heater. Make sure all workers are aware of the heaters, and instruct them on how to use heaters safely. Always follow the manufacturer’s specifications.