How to safely use auxiliary heating units in your auto repair and body shops

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It’s not always easy to keep your auto repair and body shop heated... Especially when the doors open several times a day to accommodate vehicles. But it’s important that you ensure the comfort of your staff and customers.

So to beat the winter chill, you use auxiliary heating units, but they're not without risk. They do, in fact, represent fire hazards.

Here are some tips to help you choose, install and use them safely.

Choosing your auxiliary heating units

Whether your auxiliary heating units are propane- or diesel-fuelled, run on natural gas or electricity, you need to follow these safety tips:

Safety first!

If safety is more important than heating your garage, then other options are available.

The risk of fire is lower when you rely on your primary heating system or water- or air source heaters. If you follow the installation instructions, they’re safer than open flame units.

You can also use indirect heaters that you can leave outside of your building.

Clear the way please!

Make room in your auto repair and body shop to install new auxiliary heating units safely.

Radiant or salamander heaters should be placed 2.4 m (8 ft) away from any combustible materials. The reason is simple: they give off intense heat and increase the risk of fire.

Once it is installed, make sure there is enough space around the heater. Don’t leave anything lying around these units.

Have it installed by professionals

If you choose an electric model, turn to a certified professional to install it.

You’ll have peace of mind knowing that everything will be in order and respect your province’s building-laws. You’ll also reduce the risk of fire!

Always have a fire extinguisher!

To put out an incipient fire, portable fire extinguishers are ideal especially if you heat your shop with auxiliary equipment!

Whether it’s disposable or refillable, choose an “ABC” multipurpose, dry chemical model. This means that you can put out a fire caused by:

  • Flammable materials such as wood, paper, cloth
  • Flammable liquids such as oil or gasoline
  • Live electrical appliances

Check whether the ULC logo is on the label. That way, you’ll be sure that your fire extinguisher meets Canadian standards.

Make sure you have enough fire extinguishers. Place them in full view of your staff and not on the floor. You won’t have time to look for them if a fire breaks out.

“After-sales” service is essential

Your work isn’t done after you’ve installed your auxiliary heating units. You’ll need to perform periodic inspections on them. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or turn to professionals if you need help.

It’s important that you go over the operation of a fire extinguisher with your new employees, but you should also review it with your current staff. Periodic reviews on how to use them is important as we tend to forget over time.

Ideally, document the following instructions and safety tips:

  • Use of auxiliary heating units and fire extinguishers
  • Fire safety plan in case of a fire
When in doubt

Ask your insurer for more information. Your insurer will give you tips on selecting, installing and using these temporary heating units.

The goal is to ensure your comfort and reduce the risk of fire in your building.