Construction is a year-round industry. Just because old man winter hits, work doesn’t stop. You can be exposed to low temperatures, high winds, dampness and cold water, all of which can cause cold-related stress to your body. This could result in a dangerous situation of rapid heat loss.
When heat is lost in this manner, there is the possibility that you could experience some hazards that may cause health problems. The first of these is hypothermia. This occurs when your body temperature falls to a level where normal muscle and brain functions are weakened. Freezing temperatures generally cause hypothermia, but it can happen in any climate where a person’s body temperature drops below normal.
The second hazard you need to be aware of is frostbite. This condition results when the skin tissue actually freezes. It causes ice crystals to form between cells and draw water from them so the cells become dehydrated. Although frostbite usually occurs when temperatures fall below 30°F (-1°C), wind chill can cause frostbite even with the temperature above freezing.
To help combat the cold, portable heaters fueled by propane are often used on site. Although they provide adequate heat, there are some obvious safety concerns when using large, high-BTU, portable heaters.
To protect yourself, you need to take certain precautions when using a propane heater:
- Be sure heaters are in good condition and operating properly. If a heater is not working, as it should, stop using it immediately, report the problem to a supervisor and ask for a replacement.
- Keep propane tanks upright, on a firm, level surface that is at least six feet from the heater.
- Do not use heaters in an area where they can come into contact with combustible materials. Do not place a heater directly on a plywood floor. Instead, place it on a 4-foot by 4-foot square of fire-resistant drywall or cement-board.
- Protect all hoses from physical damage and exposure to extreme heat. Don’t run hoses through a non-secured doorway because a closed door will pinch the hose. This will damage the hose, which will make it difficult for gas to flow into the heater. If a hose is run through a window, put a block on the sill to prevent the window from closing on and pinching the hose.
- Do not operate a heater in an unventilated area. Always open a few windows slightly to allow excess accumulation of fumes to escape.
- Never use heaters for cooking or warming/drying your clothing.