By Gary Webb
Although many of us will hate to admit it, winter is right around the corner and Mother Nature is sure to be stirring up her so-very-unwelcome cold weather recipes once again.
By Gary Webb
Although many of us will hate to admit it, winter is right around the corner and Mother Nature is sure to be stirring up her so-very-unwelcome cold weather recipes once again. The 2015 Farmer’s Almanac is predicting for most of Canada that “winter temperatures and precipitation will be below normal, with the coldest periods in mid-December, early and mid-January, and early to mid-February.” Accuweather.com is suggesting that we get accustomed to the term “polar vortex” as they are apparently here to stay and may get earlier and colder each year.
|When it comes to finding ways to be unsafe with heaters, you’ll find your customers are endlessly inventive.|
With the winter weather hindering and impacting construction projects (along with the health and well-being of the thousands of workers who tough it out each and every day out there on the job site), the use of temporary, portable heaters is now commonplace on these projects throughout the winter months. Here at L.B. White, we have already seen an unprecedented spike in product interest as preparations are well underway for this winter’s needs. Although, as a manufacturer, we do all we can to provide our customers with a high-quality product that will meet or exceed all safety and operation specifications required by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), we cannot be there on site to watch over operators and ensure they are doing all they can do to make sure they are using heaters in a safe and appropriate manner.
Safety on the job site begins with you. It is everyone’s responsibility to communicate, adhere to, and report the abuse of rules and regulations that are in place specifically to protect our customers, our family, and our friends from any injury or danger. Below are just a few tips to keep in mind while using temporary construction heaters during the winter months that you should always be aware of and pass along to your customers.
Where is it going?
First and foremost, know your environment. Appliances that are classified as temporary portable construction heaters are certified for “use for temporary heating of buildings under construction, alteration, repair and ventilated industrial environments.” They are for portable temporary heat only and not for use in occupied homes, offices or recreational vehicles. Using portable heaters in the correct environment is the first step in ensuring maximum safety.
Maintenance equals safety
Be sure that all of your heaters are in good working condition and operating properly. Most provinces have specific programs in place to ensure compliance and certification testing for all portable heaters. Know your local regulations and adhere to their policies. Make sure you have proper testing equipment and trained personnel on staff to inspect and certify that your heaters are ready to rent when the season arrives. If a heater is not working, remove it from the fleet and clearly tag it as defective until proper service can be performed.
Maintain proper fuel storage at your facility. Know your local laws for propane and liquid fuel (kerosene and diesel) storage. Ensure storage facilities are an adequate distance away from your facility. Propane cylinders must be kept upright and secure on a level surface and in many cases must be enclosed with a lockable fence. Liquid fuel must be stored in an approved tank with adequate leak protection. Keep an eye out on the job site and ensure that your customers are doing the same. Fuel storage on-site usually must be kept outside and away from the structure and away from any cylinders in use attached to an operating appliance. They must also be an adequate distance away from the heater. Ensure your heater hoses meet CSA requirements and are at least 15 feet long. The heater itself must be at least 10 feet away from the propane cylinder at all times.
Always provide adequate ventilation in your shop and on the job site. Carbon monoxide poisoning is often referred to as the “Invisible Killer” and is a very serious threat anywhere portable heaters are used. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that is colourless, odorless, tasteless and initially non-irritating. It is a product of incomplete combustion due to insufficient oxygen supply and is very difficult to detect. In very tight environments where fresh air supply is not available, it is recommended that indirect-fired heaters be used as they do not release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the environment. Direct-fired heaters may be more cost and fuel efficient, but they will require some sort of fresh air exchange in the environment as they are releasing carbon dioxide. A suggested rule-of-thumb for fresh air exchange is one square inch of air exchange for every 1,000 BTU per hour of heat being generated.
Ensure adequate clearance for proper air-flow. As well as providing adequate ventilation, you must also provide adequate air-flow in and around your heater placement. Specific to the heater you are placing there will be minimum required clearances needed to ensure that adequate air-flow is being provided. This means not placing heaters too close to surrounding walls, machinery, or other obstructions. Portable heaters require air to circulate into the heater to provide proper combustion. Failure to provide this air supply may result on improper combustion, sooting, and carbon monoxide generation. Please refer to your heater’s owner’s manual for required clearances.
Avoid placing heaters near combustible materials. Although this may seem like common sense, it is an increasingly common cause of fires on job sites. When placing a heater, keep in mind not just the materials around you at the time of installation, but also what may be coming in at a later date. Be aware of loose garbage and packaging that could potentially blow across the job and inadvertently come into contact with the heater. Although many heaters meet certifications for use on combustible surfaces, I recommend they still be placed on a four-foot-square piece of fire-resistant drywall or cement-board.
Protect and inspect gas hoses on a regular basis. Gas hoses should be protected against physical damage and exposure to extreme heat. Do not run hoses through unsecured doorways where they may become pinched, or lay them in an area of high traffic where wheeled dollies or heavier machinery could run over them. This will damage the hose and restrict proper gas flow to the heater. In many cases it is required that liquid propane cylinders be kept outside the building. If this is the case, put a block or some other form of stop on the window-sill to prevent the window from closing on the hose. Gas hoses that appear dry, cracked or damaged should be immediately removed from service and replaced.
Ensure proper hose and cylinder connections. Always follow proper connection and installation instructions when connecting portable heaters to propane cylinders. Propane cylinders come in various forms. Temporary heaters require use of vapour cylinders as opposed to liquid cylinders. Liquid cylinders are most commonly referred to as forklift cylinders and will not connect to a temporary heater due to their thread pattern. Do not modify a vapour cylinder hose connection to make it fit your heater! Vapour cylinders use reverse threads on their connections which are known as POL fittings. To test the fit, connect your heater hose to the cylinder tightly, but do not over-tighten. Always use proper sealant compounds and a soap test to ensure tight connections. A soap test requires a solution in a spray bottle containing a mild detergent (such as dish soap) in a ratio of 30 milliliters of soap to one liter of water. Once the heater is connected to the cylinder, open the gas valve to provide gas flow. Spray the solution on all connections (at the cylinder and the heater). If bubbles occur, then a gas leak is present and the heater is not safe for operation. Ensure a cleaner and tighter connection, and conduct the soap test again.
Shut down properly
Follow proper shut-down procedures. The shut-down procedure for your heater will be detailed in the manufacturer’s documentation. In most cases, it will be recommended that the operator close the propane cylinder while the heater is still in operation in order to bleed all the gas that may still be present in the hose line. This will ensure that if and when the heater is disconnected from the cylinder, there will be no escape of unused gas. Many heater models (depending on their BTU/h output) will also require a built-in cool-down period. Following the manufacturer’s shut-down procedures will ensure that the heater is being cycled down properly.
Pause after flame-out
In the event of flame-out, do not immediately re-light the heater. Should there be a situation where there is a gas interruption and the heater should shut down, it is always advisable that the heater be turned off and the gas cylinders closed for at least five minutes before attempting to re-light it. This will ensure that any escaped and lingering gases will properly dissipate prior to re-ignition.
Use as intended
Never use heaters for cooking or drying clothing. Far too often on job sites I have personally seen heaters being used for functions other than heating. Placing objects such as food, boots or other pieces of clothing on top of heaters or at the heat outlet can pose a serious hazard of fire or personal injury. Not only could you be restricting proper airflow through the heater (causing it to overheat internally), but you can cause serious harm when you reach for the objects you are trying to heat. Portable, temporary construction heaters are designed for heating air. Use a properly certified stove or other appliance for heating other objects.
Move it, don’t lose it
“The heater worked fine in the shop but will not operate properly on the job site.” I am sure you have heard that one before. In many cases, heater and hose damage can be caused by improperly transporting the heaters. When loading up your truck for delivery, ensure that heaters are properly strapped down and not resting or forcing themselves on other heaters or equipment. Make sure hoses are properly coiled and tied so they are not pinched or torn during transportation. Always keep a protective cap on the open ends of hoses to prevent dirt and debris from entering the hose, as this could pose a serious fire hazard if the gas valves become affected. Job sites typically contain very rough driving surfaces and lots of shaking and vibration occurs. The more prepared you are for on-the-road hazards, the better shape your equipment will be in when it arrives to your customers.
Don’t be left out in the cold this winter! Heater rentals are a necessary evil in the construction equipment rental business, and can be a profitable contribution if done correctly. Following some of these simple safety guidelines will position you to be a qualified specialist in your market, and your customers will absolutely respect and admire your concern for their safety. Remember, safety starts with you. The more information you have for your customers, the more successful you will be in your market!
Gary Webb is the national sales manager for construction and event products for L.B. White. For additional information on L.B. White products, please visit the website at www.lbwhite.com, or contact Rentquip Canada, L.B. White’s Canadian distributor (www.rentquip.com ).