December is perhaps the busiest month of the year. At this time, most people are caught in a hurly-burly of activities, what with all the gift-giving and decorating we have to do. But shopping for gifts and planning for parties are just some of the things everyone has to worry about during this frantic season. For employees, this is the time to rush countless tasks on the job, from year-end reports to last-minute deliveries.

But no one said wrapping up the year was as easy as wrapping presents and placing them under the lovely Christmas tree. This is especially true when you’re living in an area blessed with the cold, snowy if not frigid, days of December at your workplace. With the dropping temperature and snow flakes seasoning the Christmas air, conditions in the workplace can easily turn from okay to uncomfortable to fatal.

Heaters for Safety on the Job

Thank heavens for heaters. Portable heaters, in particular, have become common among various worksites. Not only are they necessary in workplaces that need heating in certain areas, they are also ideal in offices and other workplaces with a small floor area.

But like any invention, portable heaters are not perfect. Just as they give out several benefits for a cold workplace or space to enjoy, they also pose some hazards and can be the cause of a number of accidents, the most common of which is fire. Read on to find out safety tips on choosing and using portable heaters in your workplace.

Basic Standards

First thing’s first, before purchasing a portable heater for your workplace, make sure it is approved for commercial use by a nationally recognized safety testing laboratory.

It’s best to go for a heater with a tip-over switch. This feature allows the heater to turn off automatically when it is knocked over. Also, make sure that the heater has a guard that keeps fingers and other flammable materials away from the heating element. The guard usually comes in the form of a wire grill.

Take time to read the owner’s manual before operating the heater. Always refer to it for the maintainance of the heater.

Do’s in Using Portable Heaters

Follow these guidelines when using or operating a portable heater:

  • Place the heater at least 11 feet away from combustible materials, including curtains, upholstered furniture and walls.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near every portable heater.
  • Place the portable heater on the floor or on a location with secure footing or base. Placing it on tables and chairs is a big no-no.
  • Perform pre-operational inspection of the heater. Check for damage on its parts, knobs, coils and legs. If damage is detected, take the heater out of service immediately and have it repaired by a competent person.
  • Disconnect the heating unit first before making repairs on it.
  • Always keep clothes, plastic and other combustible materials away from the heater coils as they can instantly ignite and start a fire.
  • Ensure that the portable heater is plugged into properly grounded outlets.
  • No matter what kind of portable heater you’re using, you must keep and maintain a smoke detector with it.
  • Avoid using extension cords with the portable heater. If you really have to use an extension cord, make sure it is marked with a power rating that is at least as high as the heater itself.
  • Make sure the electrical cord is NOT exposed to the intense heat generated by the heater

Photo by Jane M. Sawyer

  • Before moving or refueling a heater, turn it off and allow it to cool down. When using heaters with liquid fuel, allow it to cool down first and move it to a well-ventilated area before fueling it.
  • Keep the accumulation of carbon monoxide under control by establishing and maintaining adequate ventilation in the work area.

Don’ts and Never’s in Operating Heaters

Remember also what NOT TO DO when using portable heaters in the workplace to avoid accidents. Here they are:

  • Never overload the circuit used for the heater.
  • It’s worth saying again: never place portable heaters on tables, chairs, stair steps, pallets and other locations where they are likely to fall over or be knocked over.
  • Never let extension cords get buried and lost under rugs or carpets.
  • Never touch the coils of the portable heater while it is on or cooling.
  • Do not place a fan in front of the portable heater. Otherwise, the fan can melt or start a fire.
  • Never place anything on top of the cord.
  • Never stand on a portable heater.
  • Never leave the heater unattended, especially when leaving the work site.

From the blog

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