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October 12, 2022

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As homeowners and restaurant operators prepare to extend patio season, Technical Standards and Safety Authority and partners mark Fire Prevention Week with tips for maintenance

As Ontario homeowners and restaurant operators prepare to extend patio season this autumn, Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) and safety-minded partners mark Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 9 to 15, 2022) by delivering patio heater maintenance guidelines to help keep outdoor gatherers safe from fires and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Knowing how to properly use patio heaters and open-flame appliances – including fire pits, fireplaces and tabletop units – helps everyone safely enjoy outdoor dining and socializing. With the hope that multiple voices will bring greater impact to this message, TSSA, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC), Ontario Municipal Fire Prevention Officers Association (OMFPOA), Canadian Propane Association (CPA), and Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA) offer the following patio heater and open-flame appliance safety tips.

“Outdoor heating devices are great tools that provide temporary warmth when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Improperly used devices can lead to the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. When using these devices, ensure that they are kept away from combustible materials and used in well ventilated areas,” said Vince Giovannini, president, OMFPOA.

Tips for the safe use of patio heaters

  • Ensure equipment is safety certified – Make sure outdoor heating devices are certified by the CSA, ULC, or another recognized certification body. A list of approved certification marks can be found on the TSSA website.
  • Avoid the dangers of fire and CO poisoning – Never use outdoor heating devices indoors or in an enclosed area. If patio heaters are used in a shelter, be conscious of fire hazards and risks of CO build up.
  • Recognize the symptoms of CO poisoning – Teach staff and family members to recognize the symptoms of CO poisoning (nausea, dizziness, headache).
  • Avoid fire hazards – Be sure to adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for required clearances from combustible materials such as umbrellas, awnings, walls, tablecloths, paper products, decorations, etc. Don’t forget to locate and identify easily accessible fire extinguishers in the patio area.
  • Position with care – Always place patio heaters on a stable surface. Make sure patio heaters do not obstruct doors, fire exits or firefighting equipment and are properly distanced from building air intakes.
  • Operate safely – Ensure anyone operating a patio heater understands how to disconnect and install propane cylinders, including how to check for leaks. See the Patio Heater Safety Guidelines for instructions.
  • Keep an eye out – Never leave patio heaters unattended and pay particular attention when children or intoxicated adults are in the vicinity.
  • Store propane cylinders safely – Never store propane cylinders indoors, in a garage, close to operational heaters, or near smoking areas. Propane cylinders must be stored upright, outdoors, in an area protected against tampering, unauthorized movement, dropping, or impacts that could result in a leak or a fire.

“Owners and operators of outdoor patios and dining areas are responsible for the safe installation, operation, and maintenance of their patio heating units. They must abide by all safety and maintenance instructions outlined in operating manuals and ensure they understand how to safely operate heating units and properly handle propane cylinders. Outdoor heating equipment should not simply be pulled out of storage and turned on each year without being properly inspected and maintained, as per the manufacturer’s instructions,” Sam Sadeghi, director, fuels safety, TSSA, said.

Additional resources on the safe use of outdoor heating devices and propane cylinders, including Patio Heater Safety Guidelines and a Patio Heater Safety Checklist for Restaurant Owners and Operators, are available for download here.

“Propane patio heaters are perfect for warming up chilly nights. Their versatility and portability mean you can heat up just about any space. Taking the time to understand how to use patio heaters and open flame appliances safely will help everyone enjoy the outdoors long into the evening. Follow the TSSA’s safety tips, and for more information on propane, visit the CPA’s website.” – Shannon Watt, president and CEO, CPA


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