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Staying Warm and Staying Safe: Using Portable Heating in your Business

As the cold weather arrives, many of us take out our portable heaters to provide extra warmth in garages, warehouses, job sites and other spaces lacking permanent heating. However, portable heaters also introduce significant fire risks if not selected, used and maintained properly.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the types of portable heaters, potential fire hazards, safety best practices and how to safely incorporate portable heating into your fire risk management plan. Whether you're using portable heaters in your home, business or construction site, this info will help you to stay cosy and fire-safe all winter long.

Popular Types of Portable Heaters

There are three main varieties of portable heaters:

Electric Heaters: Typically powered by plugging into an outlet. Options like convection heaters and infrared heaters tend to be safer than those with exposed heating elements. Ensure any electric heater is BEAB-certified for safety standards.

Liquid-Fueled Heaters: Use flammable liquids like diesel, kerosene or paraffin for fuel. Both direct-fired (exposed flame) or indirect-fired options exist, with indirect being safer. Never use waste oil.

Gas-Fired Heaters: Rely on propane or butane fuel tanks connected to the unit. Indirect-fired cabinet-style units minimise fire risks compared to direct open-flame types.

Potential Fire Hazards

While very handy, all portable heater units also have fire risk factors, including:

  • Instability and fuel spills if knocked over

  • Mechanical failure resulting in fuel/gas leaks

  • Lack of maintenance checks and procedures

  • Close proximity to combustible materials

  • Use around flammable vapors or dust

Liquid and gas-fueled heaters have heightened risks due to the built-in fuel supplies and reliance on burning flames or elements. But even electric heaters can start fires by overloading circuits or being positioned near fabrics and papers.

Best Practices for Portable Heater Safety

If you do require portable heating sources, follow these tips for fire prevention:

  • Favor electric or indirect-fired liquid/gas units

  • Keep in an open area away from combustibles

  • Avoid moving units when operating

  • Refuel only when cool and off

  • Do not leave operating units unattended

  • Use safety mesh shields wherever possible

  • Maintain adequate ventilation

  • Have proper fire extinguishers close by

  • Store fuel safely external to buildings

Also be sure to train all staff on proper usage, implement maintenance checks between seasons and update your fire risk assessment strategy to cover portable heater implementation.

Incorporating Portable Heaters into Fire Safety Plans

For business premises and warehouses using temporary heating devices, an important last step is reviewing and adjusting your fire plans appropriately:

  • Note portable heater locations on evacuation floor maps

  • Add portable extinguishers near planned heater areas

  • Implement sign-off procedures for daily checks when heaters are to be used

  • Create clear policy guidelines for acceptable portable heater usage

  • Revise evacuation protocols taking heaters into account

With a rigorous portable heater safety policy applied diligently as temperatures drop, you can securely and reliably add extra warmth without heating up your fire risk. Stay cosy and safe this winter!


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