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Heating unit safety

Tips for safely using your heating unit

In the cold winter months, you turn on the furnace and heaters to keep the shop warm. While comfort is important, there are also some safety precautions you should consider to help prevent fires. We have some suggestions to help.

Gas- and oil-fired furnaces can be a major cause of fires and explosions. During the heating season, shop doors are often closed, limiting the building’s natural ventilation. That can allow explosive vapors to build up in a shop area very easily. And when a furnace runs, it could draw explosive vapors through the burner and ignite them. Even if the heater is off, the pilot light is still a concern for ignition.

Here are some common sources of explosions or fires that you need to consider:

  • Gasoline
  • Liquefied petroleum gas (LP gas)
  • Painting applications
  • Paint storage
  • Oxygen and acetylene tanks

If you properly store these flammable items, you’ll reduce your risk. Here’s how:

Gasoline

You should store gas in Underwriter Laboratories (UL) listed safety cans that have a screened pouring outlet with tight fitting cap or valve. This cover is normally closed by a spring—except when held open by hand—so that gas will not be spilled if the can is tipped over. Spring-loaded valves also act as an emergency vent when the cans are exposed to fire. You should remember to store gasoline away from heating units and sources of ignition like welding and grinding operations.

LP gas

If you use portable LP gas tanks, be sure to store them outside the building. When it comes to your LP gas forklifts or vehicles, be sure to close the container shut-off valve while repairs are being done—except when the engine is operated. Avoid any work near inadequately ventilated pits. Also, don’t park the vehicle near sources of heat, open flames, or other sources of ignition.

Painting

When painting, you should use an approved spray paint room or spray paint booth. And make sure to ventilate with an explosion-proof fan, since paint over-spray can be a major fire hazard.

Paint storage

Store your paints and thinners in UL listed metal cabinets away from the spray area and any equipment that could produce a flame or spark.

Oxygen/acetylene

You should keep oxygen and acetylene stored separately and at least 20 feet apart, or separated by a noncombustible barrier at least 5 feet high. The barrier should have a fire-resistive rating of at least 30 minutes. You should also inspect for proper storage of flammable liquids on a daily basis. And don’t forget to do a monthly inspection and document it. You’ll need to show that flammable liquids are being stored in their proper place, away from ignition sources.

We can provide you with a self-inspection checklist that can be used as your storage documentation.

Related resources

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