Dying to Stay Warm

Each winter personnel are injured by improperly using space heaters.  The key to preventing these injuries is a program that identifies the hazards associated with the specific space heater being used and implementing procedures to reduce or eliminate the hazards.  This program is only effective if the procedures identified to reduce and eliminate hazards are implemented. As winter gets closer, there will be more places that will be identified as needing heat or supplemental heat. The solution for many of those areas will be space heaters. These heaters are purchased at local hardware stores. They are easy to purchase, but not as easy to use as we often assume. This blog post will highlight some of the hazards with operating space heaters and recommend solutions to eliminate some of the hazards.

The improper operation of the space heater is normally the root of the problem. Proper operation begins with the identification of the individual who will operate the space heater, followed by heater-specific training, resulting in certifying of the individual. There must be specific guidance on the selection, training, and certifying of heater operators.  The actual training is developed by organizational personnel using the appropriate instruction manual for the heater and is documented in the form of lesson plans. A hands-on performance evaluation is the best way to determine the skill level prior to certification. It becomes apparent that if the operator is properly selected, trained, and certified, many of these contributing factors can be avoided. The addition of proper supervision to the program will not only ensure the operator is trained and certified, but will identify and correct hazards with the space heater, its fuel, and use.

There are various types of space heaters used. Space heaters that use fossil fuels should always vent their exhaust outside the space being used or potentially being used by personnel. This limits the exposure of personnel in the heated space to Carbon Monoxide gas. This gas is colorless and tasteless and normally cannot be detected without an alarm or measuring device. It is key to limit or prevent exposure to this gas.

Risk Management should also be a part of the program. This process can assist operators and supervisors in identifying and controlling hazards. It is best implemented by leaders ensuring control measures are used and that hazard and control measure information is passed to personnel who will be exposed to the hazards of operating space heaters.

Through the proper application of a space heater safety program, supervisors can control and eliminate the hazards faced by users. This program will prevent burns or deaths to users and the fire damage that often destroys equipment.

With winter fast approaching now is the time to develop and implement a space heater safety program. This winter personnel will be injured by improperly using space heaters, don’t let them be in your organization. The key to preventing these injuries is a program that identifies the hazards associated with the specific space heater being used and the implementation of procedures that will reduce or eliminate the hazards. This program is only effective if the procedures identified to reduce and eliminate hazards are actually implemented. Identify locations where heat or supplemental heat will be needed now, before the cold sets in. The solution for many of those areas will be space heaters. Purchase Underwriter Laboratory (UL) approved heaters at local hardware stores and train personnel to use them. This blog post highlighted some of the hazards of operating space heaters and recommended solutions to eliminate some of the hazards.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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