Patio heaters can help restaurants keep customer counts up as the temperatures fall by extending the use of outdoor dining spaces.
But many facilities’ outdoor spaces are new, and patio heaters pose risks if they are not installed, operated and maintained properly.
Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA) has combined with the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and the Canadian Propane Association to educate restaurants, bars and the public about the hazards of using outdoor patio heaters improperly.
Some of the hazards are obvious. The heating units and flammables such as tablecloths and paper products are a dangerous combination. Fixed fuel-fired appliances such as fire pits and fireplaces with open flames must be installed by a TSSA-certified technician. Proper ventilation is also vital, as carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal.
The guidelines also highlight some less obvious risks. Patio heaters should not be positioned to block fire exits or access to safety equipment. And propane tanks must be properly stored. That means in an upright position, outside, locked inside a cage or fenced-in area, three feet from any building opening and 10 feet from air intakes or certain adjoining properties.
With many restaurants new to outdoor operations, TSSA inspectors have reported seeing propane improperly stored.