As we head into the cold darkness of winter, hotels and other facilities are increasing their use of portable fuel tanks for heating lamps, space heating, fire pits and BBQ areas.

Safety and Maintenance of Portable Heating and Cooking Equipment

Although they do not represent significant asset investments, portable heating and cooking equipment have significant safety risks associated with them. In addition, the liability risk from improper setup and maintenance can be enormous.

A recent report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that an average of 3,700 structure fires occurred in hotels and motels between 2006 and 2010. These same fires resulted in a dozen deaths, over a hundred injuries and over $127 million in property damage.

According to the same NFPA report, over 80% of the fires were asset care related. This makes most hotel maintenance critical to avoiding death, injury and property damage as well as minimizing asset neglect liability claims.

Tips for Care and Maintenance of Assets Fueled by Portable Fuels

Maintenance for assets that are used on a temporary or infrequent basis for heating or cooking has to include inspections and preventive maintenance before, during and after use for:

Hotel Portable Fuel Assets that should be Inspected

  • Ventilation – CO2 buildup can be deadly. Ensure CO monitors are in place for any indoor activity that uses fossil fuels for a source.

“Carbon monoxide (CO), is a gas you cannot see, taste, or smell. It can be created when fossil fuels, such as kerosene, gasoline, coal, natural gas, propane, methane, or wood do not burn properly…Carbon monoxide poisoning can result from faulty furnaces or other heating appliances, portable generators, water heaters …”

Source: NFPA 2012

  • Inspect for leaks using soap bubbles or water for leak identification. Fuel leaks cause explosions!!!!
  • Rust – rusted valves on fuel tanks may cause leaks or temperance problems. Rust is inevitable due to outside storage of tanks as well as exposure to the elements. Hotels near salt water will see faster corrosion on metal fuel tanks and valves.
  • Monitor the temperature of cords/hoses during use. If a cord or hose is too hot to touch with the bare hand then that particular piece of equipment needs to be shut down immediately until it cools.
  • If using an electric space heater, make sure that space heaters are plugged directly into a wall socket and never into an extension cord or power strip. Space heaters draw substantial power. It is not uncommon for the cord for a space heater to melt or catch fire especially if connected to an extension cord.

Common Sense Things for Hotel Staff and Maintenance to Understand

  • Never leave the top down on a grill unattended.
  • Make sure there is enough distance between heater/fire and flammable items (often set by fire codes).
  • Make sure valves are completely shut off – after use.
  • Make sure any valve turned on is lit – during use.
  • Remove grease and fat from grills as they are easily ignited by a hot grill.
  • Be aware of Local or State fire codes – to make sure the heating device is legal in the State being used and is being used correctly.
  • Proper documentation using a hotel CMMS for preventive maintenance, inspections and repairs are necessary to mitigate injury claims based on asset neglect. If an asset is going to fail or catch fire let it be a true accident and not the result of inadequate maintenance.
  • Keep any fire escape plans visible to guest.

Propane and liquid gas must always be stored either inside or outside (under cover) and the grills or heaters stored in a dry area. Fumes from even small leaks of natural gas or propane are easily ignited by a spark, pilot lights and static electricity.

“Always store propane gas tanks outside of buildings or garages. Vapors leaked indoors can be easily ignited by pilot lights or electrical equipment, causing an explosion. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the tank or cylinder and leave it outside.”

Source: NFPA 2012

Of course all this is easier when you have your hotel has a CMMS system to handle all your work management needs.