Risks, requirements of temporary heat locations

May 12, 2022 By    

We see temporary heat installations at construction sites, state and county fairs or festivals, and in some agricultural applications such as grain drying. These installations are governed by their own code provisions and carry some unique risks.

NFPA 58 Section 4.3.2 and its subparts generally apply to temporary propane installations. The section requires plans for any installation that exceeds the gallons noted in Section 4.3.1 (storage containers with an aggregate capacity in excess of 4,000 gallons or rooftop ASME containers) to be submitted to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). The person or company doing the installation or the person or company that contracts for the installation shall notify the AHJ.

The NFPA 58 Handbook, with reference to this section, notes that the requirement is simply to notify the AHJ of the temporary installation. There is no requirement to obtain approval from the AHJ. This is because local AHJs are organized and staffed in different ways. As a result, the ability of propane companies to obtain AHJ approval or receive acknowledgement of those plans has been sporadic.

A plan submitted to the local AHJ should include the required detail of the local AHJ. Absent any local requirements, these plans should include such items as a detailed site plan, showing key distances and code references, listing of equipment being installed and points of contact should a question or emergency arise.

A temporary installation is defined as not exceeding 12 months in duration. See NFPA 58 Handbook notes to Section If the installation exceeds 12 months, rules regarding permanent installations would then kick in.

The local AHJ requires this information so it can notify the local fire service of the situation. When responding to a gas leak, fire or explosion, the fire service can use the information to battle the event safely.

Many temporary installations fall outside of NFPA 58 Section 4.3.2 as they involve containers that are less than 4,000 aggregate gallons or not on rooftops. These “smaller applications” usually require a permit or provision of notice to the local AHJ. Each jurisdiction varies on these requirements.

Jurisdictions also vary regarding who is required to obtain the permit or provide notice to the local AHJ. When the local AHJ allows the propane company or customer to perform these tasks, it is important for the propane company to confirm in writing, preferably via contract, who will notify the AHJ and obtain the necessary permits for the temporary application.

Safety requirements

A number of NFPA 58 sections cover safe practices that apply to temporary heat applications. Section 6.8.5 of NFPA 58 (2020) and its subsections detail the general requirements. These requirements include:

The propane storage containers shall be placed on concrete pads, paved surfaces or firm earth.

Temporary service is noted to be “not more than 12 months at a given location.” See Section

The surface shall be level, if not paved, and clear of dry grass, weeds and other combustible material within 10 ft. of the container. See Section

Connecting piping shall be flexible. See Section

Similar requirements apply to temporary installation of skid tanks (Section 6.6.2 et seq.) and temporary installation of Porta-Pacs (Section 6.6.3. et seq.).

This list is not exhaustive. These requirements are not surprising and reflect common requirements for any container set.

Possible risks

A unique risk in temporary heat applications can occur when someone other than the propane company moves a tank set to accommodate its operations.

Typically, in the contracts with customers, propane companies discourage this practice and provide that the propane company has the right to inspect the installation. Confirming this practice via contract provides the propane company with clear documentation that it opposes this practice. Advising the customer to contact the propane company and request that it move its equipment should always be part of this contractual language.

We recommend that the customer be advised in contract documents that, when a customer moves a tank, the propane company will charge for its inspection of the new tank set.

John V. McCoy is with McCoy, Leavitt, Laskey LLC. His firm represents industry members nationally. He can be reached at 262-522-7007.

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