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Follow these tips for safe use of space heaters

Space heaterFor a large portion of the country, you can already feel the change in temperatures this time of year brings. If you haven’t already, the falling temperatures mean heating your business in some fashion, including the use of space heaters.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters are involved in 79 percent of fatal home heating fires. Heating equipment is the second-leading cause of home fires behind cooking, and the second leading cause of home fire deaths behind smoking.

While these statistics are related to the home, the same cause of fires related to space heaters can be applied to businesses. And so can safety precautions to help prevent fires caused by space heaters.

Space heater safe practices

If you use a space heater at your business, never leave it running overnight. And as a general rule, it should be turned off anytime an area is not attended.

The NFPA offers these additional safety tips when operating a space heater:

  • Use a heater that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions before using
  • Maintain 3-foot clear zone around space heaters, especially free of flammable objects
  • Make sure your space heater has a sturdy metal screen to help prevent contact burns
  • Use space heaters that feature an automatic shut-off function when tipped
  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface
  • Plug the heater directly into outlets and don’t use extension cords
  • Inspect the heater’s cords for exposed wires or loose connections

Fuel-burning space heaters

When using fuel-burning space heaters, keep in mind the best practices above, along with these additional guidelines:

  • Use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer.
  • When refueling, allow the heater to cool first, and refuel outside or in a well-ventilated area.
  • When the heater is in operation, open a window to allow for proper ventilation.
  • If the pilot light goes out, wait at least 5 minutes before trying to light again. Light the match before you turn on the gas again to avoid the risk of flashback.
  • If you smell gas with your gas heater, do not light the heater. Turn off the controls, opens doors and windows, and have the heater serviced.

More things to keep in mind

Remember, space heaters are only designed to offer supplemental heat. Don’t use them for cooking, to dry items such as clothing, or thaw pipes.

Also, keep space heaters away from the main thoroughfares at your business. Treat them like fans, hoses, and equipment—keeping them out of the way as potential tripping hazards.

While you should have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors already in place, they are even more important when space heaters are in use. These should be regularly tested, as well.

Space heaters are needed in this industry, but they do pose some risks. With some common sense and safety in mind, their use can be a part of everyday business.

Related links:

For more information on safety preparation for your business, check out the Hortica Resources section.