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Safety Tips for Propane Construction Heaters

Construction projects aren’t operating in just the spring, summer and fall. Most jobsites keep working throughout the winter, and in the Midwest, this means cold temperatures for your workers.Renting portable construction heating equipment is helpful in keeping productivity up, and protecting the work you’ve already done. However, portable propane heaters come with some risks. We’re going to run through some quick safety tips to help you make sure your construction site stays safe when using portable propane construction heaters.

Possible Hazards of Construction Heaters

When you’re using any type of temporary heater on your construction site, there are risks involved. If you follow our safety tips for propane construction heaters, you can greatly minimize these risks. However, you should be aware of possible accidents that could occur.

Fires and Burns

Fires and burns are always a risk when you’re using temporary heaters. There are several ways to reduce the risk of this that we’ll discuss. These preventative tips include placement, equipment condition and the activity of your workers.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Whenever you’re burning fuels to produce heat, the risk of carbon monoxide building up on your jobsite is always there. We’ll go through proper ventilation tips that can greatly reduce this risk.

High Humidity

When heat is produced while coming in direct contact with flame, like with direct fired heaters, humidity can be released into your enclosed job space. This can cause problems like loss of productivity and mold growth. We’ll go over how to properly vent your heaters to reduce these risks.

What is a Propane Construction Heater?

If you’re new to the industry, or even just construction in the Midwest, you may not know what we mean by propane construction heaters. To give you an idea, construction heaters have a few different types: direct fired, direct fired enclosed flame, indirect fired, and convection heaters.

Direct Fired Heaters

Direct fired heaters are an exposed flame heater that runs on either propane or natural gas. These heaters are the most efficient propane construction heater. They can convert around 98% of their fuel to usable heat.

Direct Fired Enclosed Flame Heaters

Direct fired enclosed flame heaters are just as efficient as direct fired heaters, but they have an enclosure built around the flame. These are great for heating tents and partially finished homes.

Indirect Fired Heaters

Indirect fired heaters are another enclosed flame heaters but they work a little differently. The air that is heated doesn’t come in direct contact with the flame, which makes them less efficient. The benefit to this is lower moisture creation. For more information about the difference between direct and indirect fired heaters, you can read our blog about it.

Convection Heaters

Convection heaters or “pod heaters” are propane burning construction heaters that don’t require electricity to operate. These work best for early stage construction when electric isn’t available, but should be switched out for direct fired heaters when electricity is obtained. This is because they’re much less efficient, and don’t have an automatic thermostat option.

Tips for Improving Safety with Your Propane Construction Heaters

Safe Heater Placement

Your safety precautions should start with the placement of your propane construction heaters. First, you should place your heaters in an area where they won’t come in contact with combustible materials. Place your heaters on cement,  ground outside of the building, or any other fire resistant material. Try to create a 4-foot by 4-foot square area where the heater won’t come into contact with flammable materials such as plywood and insulation.

Check Condition and Operation

Now that your heater is placed properly, you’ll need to make sure they’re in correct working order at all times. If at any time your heater won’t stay lit, doesn’t produce a spark or you smell gas, you should discontinue use until the problem is resolved.

If your construction heater is acting up, you can use some portable heater troubleshooting tips to help easily resolve the problem. If the issues persist, call your heater provider to come out and see what may be wrong with your equipment.

Keep Propane Tanks Upright and Dry

When choosing the placement of your propane tanks, no matter what size, make sure they are in an upright position. This is important because storing propane tanks upright will keep the relief valve in contact with vapor, preventing further risks.

Choose a flat and dry area that is firm and at least six feet from the heater itself. When I say dry area, I mean don’t put the tank in standing water. This could cause the tank to rust, which is something you’re going to want to avoid.

Proper Ventilation

To keep you and your workers safe from harm, you’re also going to want to make sure you have proper ventilation in your heated space. Since these heaters are burning fuel, they are creating noxious fumes.

Properly trained service techs from your equipment rental company can instruct you on how to ventilate your heated space, but it’s also best practice to open windows around your jobsite to help ventilate.

Proper ventilation of your jobsite will also help reduce moisture from collecting in your construction site, so it’s a win-win situation. Moisture on your jobsite can cause mold growth over time, and can also lengthen the time it takes for paint and other materials to cure. For more info on how to properly ventilate your construction heaters on your job site, you can read our blog on preventing moisture on your construction site.

Protect Hoses

Fuel hoses can be a major cause of risk for construction heaters. Cracked, leaky or obstructed hoses can lead to accidents. To prevent fuel flow issues, don’t run hoses through non-secured doorways. This puts you at risk of pinching your hoses, which could damage or punctures. If your hose runs through a window, put a block on the windowsill to prevent the window from closing and pinching the hose. Also avoid exposing your hoses to extreme heat.

Don’t Use Propane Heaters to Dry or Warm Clothing

This may go without saying, but don’t use your construction heaters for any other purpose than heating your space. Don’t try to dry or warm articles of clothing on your heaters. While you may think it’s harmless to place your jacket on your heater, this is a major fire risk. Under no circumstance should you ever purposely place flammable objects near or on your propane heaters.

Propane construction heaters are a necessary part of running a jobsite in the winter months, but they do come with risks if used incorrectly. From the proper working condition of heaters, proper placement, ventilation and reducing fire risk, there is a lot you can do to mitigate your risks.

If you have any further questions about reducing risks when operating propane heaters on you construction site, do not hesitate to contact your heater rental provider. They can give you a more tailored assessment of the steps you should take.

On Site Companies is a construction equipment rental company out of St. Paul, Rochester and Mankato MN, and St. Louis MO. For more questions about propane construction heaters or renting heaters, call us at 651.429.3781 or email us at [email protected].

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