Outdoor Heater Safety Tips

Outdoor Heater Safety Tips

November 04, 2020

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Outdoor heaters are a vital tool for restaurants to keep outdoor diners comfortable through the fall and into the winter. Especially now, restaurants can accommodate a lot more clientele with some basic outdoor seating. With the use of outdoor heaters, comes some new safety precautions employers should take. We have outlined safety specifications to look for when choosing, using, and storing an outdoor heater! Follow our guide  to prevent an injury and possible workers' compensation claim!

Choosing an Outdoor Heater

1. The first and most important thing is to choose a heater that has been tested and approved by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory such as UL.

2. Determine if you want a heater that runs on natural gas, liquid propane, or electricity.

  • Generally speaking, gas and propane models give off more heat but using propane requires refilling propane tanks regularly. 
  • Electrical heaters are easier to set up and run but may not provide quite as much heat as their gas and propane counterparts.

3. There are also two safety features that you should look for before selecting a heater

  • A thermocouple or automatic gas or propane shutoff

  • A tip-over switch or a wide or weighted base that prevents a tip-over

4. Pick a heater that is outdoor rated and designed to stand up to rain and temperature changes it will be exposed to during outdoor dining.

Using an Outdoor Heater

1. Leave ample space around the heater. Many manufacturers recommend 2-3’ of clearance around heaters but check the specifications prior to setup.

2. Outdoor heaters should be placed so they are not near foot traffic, meaning people should not be constantly walking by them.  In fact, the National Fire Protection Agency says that heaters should not be place within 5’ of an exit.  This is so that people entering and exiting do not knock the heater over.

3. If you do elect to use a propane heater, it can not be used indoors.  Propane produces carbon monoxide, which can be deadly in an enclosed area.  

Storing a Propane Heater

When storing a propane heater;

  • Do not store or place a propane cylinders indoors in an enclosed area that is connected to living space such as a basement, or garage. Not only is it unsafe to store propane indoors, it is illegal. 
  • Fortunately, propane tanks can stay outdoors in a wide temperature range without any problems (the safe range for propane is -40°F to 120°F). In the summer, it is common practice to store tanks in a shaded area.
  • Never store a tank in a vehicle
  • Store tanks upright, never laying down or on their side
  • Never attempt to repair a tank, regulator, or line…a leak can result in an explosion and/or fire
  • If you smell a leak, (it will smell like rotten eggs) or hear a hissing noise near a propane tank, turn off the valve. Then evacuate the area and call the emergency services.

Heaters can be used safety by following the above guidelines and the manufacturer’s guidance. 

Please see our Resource & Education page for other accident prevention strategies.