Many like to say their state has two seasons – winter and construction. However, construction and other industry workers are well aware their work year doesn’t end when winter weather hits. In fact, workers around the U.S. are outdoors in extreme colds or even blizzard-like conditions.
OSHA Safety Requirements
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration is aware that some workers don’t get a day off when they snow falls or temperatures hit in the negatives. To ensure these employees are as safe as possible while at work, OSHA requires employers to provide safe working conditions, which often means providing heated areas for employees to warm up from the cold. The administration also has regulations regarding temporary heating devices.
Heaters at Job sites
Construction workers often use propane heaters at the job site to create warm areas. These are considered cleaner and more efficient than electric or kerosene heaters, according to For Construction Pros. However, there are safety risks associated with all portable heating devices.
Propane Heater Safety
The size of the propane tank used should be appropriate for the size of the area you want to heat. To determine the appropriate sized heater, merely calculate the volume of the space in cubic feet then multiply by two or four, depending how well the area is insulated, to determine how many British Thermal Units per hour you want the device to put out.
The area in which the propane heater will be used must be properly ventilated to prevent carbon monoxide build up, according to OSHA standards. Carbon monoxide can accumulate quickly and workers exposed to the gas can have cardiovascular issues, fall into a coma or die.
Propane heaters should be kept on level surfaces, preferably on concrete or a noncombustible surface. Heaters should never be kept on wood flooring.
All propane heaters should be kept a considerable distance away from combustible materials and must have a 100 percent safety shut-off valve. Combustible materials don’t just mean chemicals, but also tarps, tents and workers’ clothing such as coats or safety vests they may have taken off.
Propane heaters need to be properly maintained and used to ensure they are enjoyed safely. The Propane Education and Research Council advises workers to look over the propane cylinders to make sure there’s no rust or dents and to use a leak detection solution to check that there are no leaks, For Construction Pros reported. Soap and water is not the best way to test for leaks, as the soap can be corrosive and actually damage the cylinder.
Tanks that hold more than 100 pounds of propane should never be used indoors and no more than three 100-pound cylinders should be connected to one manifold. If any sized propane cylinder is used inside it should be in a very well-ventilated area.
Propane heaters are an important winter-safety product for many workers around the U.S., but only by following the manufacturers’ instructions, OSHA regulations and best practices can they be truly enjoyed without fear of injury.