Staying Safe While Staying Warm: Heating Safety Considerations

Dee Jepsen – State Agricultural Safety and Health Leader

Staying warm during the winter months is important for outdoor workers. Popular heating sources in barns and farm shops include furnaces, wood stoves, portable space heaters, and heat lamps. Each source has its own type of hazards, putting Ohio farmers at risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisonings. According to the National Fire Protection Association, January and February are the primary months associated with deaths caused by heating equipment. Here are a few tips to prevent heating-related tragedies.

• Keep combustibles at least 3 feet away from heating sources. This includes trash cans, papers, cloth, liquid fuel containers, and straw bedding.

• Use the right kind of fuel, suggested by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.

• Wood burning stoves pose significant danger if not installed correctly. It is important to protect the walls, ceiling and floor near the stove with mortared fireproof materials, and keep stove pipes as short as possible.

• Chimneys and stove pipes require regular inspection and cleaning during the months they are used. Creosote buildup can quickly lead to a chimney fire.

• Ashes from wood burning stoves, open station fire pits, and fireplaces should be placed in metal containers. The containers should not be near combustibles, or be used as additional trash collectors. 

• Always turn portable heaters off when the area is not occupied. Unattended heating equipment is a serious fire concern.

• Ensure electrical cords on heating units have grounding prongs and are not frayed or taped together. Electrical cords should not be placed under rugs, or strung through walls or door jams.

• All heat sources require ventilation to prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide (CO). Do not use any type of heating equipment without adequate ventilation. It may be necessary to open a window or door to allow fresh air to circulate through the room. This is especially true if the area is tightly insulated and sealed.

• Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as a first alert to excessive heat or CO accumulation. Test and replace their batteries annually.

• Heat lamps should be at least 18 inches away from combustible bedding materials like straw or blankets. Heat lamps and their cords should be out of reach from curious livestock.

• Have an ABC fire extinguisher in the area to be prepared for small fires. 

Staying warm during winter months is important to protect from hypothermia. Protecting your barn, grain facility shanty, and farm shop from fire and CO accumulations is also important for your health and safety.

For more information about Agricultural Safety and Health, visit, or contact Dee Jepsen, OSU Agricultural Safety & Health Program Leader, at or 614-292-6008.