Electrical, heat and misuse injuries are commonplace in industrial settings where hazardous equipment is regularly used. Additionally, the proliferation of DIY projects has made high-performance tools like heat guns widely practical to at-home applications. But when using machinery that contains many dangers, the average person will likely run into problems. Plus, using heat guns around co-workers and within a dedicated safety framework on site means safety professionals and emergency services are more readily available should shock, burn or chemical inhalation occur. On the other hand, an individual using a heat gun on a solo project within his or her own home would have no such fallback option.
Irrespective of setting, all heat gun users should follow a few basic safety practices to ensure their tools are operating as intended and that undue hazards don’t lead to serious medical consequences.
Here’s a starting point:
Watch where you’re stepping
If you’re working in the vicinity of others, or even around ladders, steps or obstructions, your utmost attention is paramount. A heat gun that exceeds 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit can easily fall out of your hands and land on you or another person should you slip or trip. Further, if you were to be knocked unconscious, the heat gun would still be plugged in, potentially causing a fire.
Long story short: Be mindful of where you place your feet.
Know your desired temperature setting before turning on
It might go without saying, but high temperature is the core function of a heat gun, and beginning a project without being sure what setting to use can be dangerous. When the heat gun is plugged in, it immediately begins producing heat, and whatever surface you’re intending to work on may be affected by improper temperature calibrations, meaning it will turn out poorly.
Too hot, and you could cause melting; not hot enough, and you could be wasting your time.
Do not obstruct inlet grills
If debris builds up on or around air inlet grills, airflow will be restricted and the temperature of the heat gun may rise more quickly, which could cause a fire. Without adequate airflow, it’s difficult for the gun to control temperature, and debris that isn’t removed could result in a spark.
Check heat gun and extension cords for damaged leads
It’s not uncommon for wiring to become tangled, split, burned or cut, either inadvertently during use or due to an unrelated accident in the area. For instance, tripping over an extension cord can pull the wiring from its plug, or a high-wattage electronic device could trip the breaker and cause wires to fray or burn.
Damaged leads may still be useful for a certain period of time longer, but they will never be as effective or as safe as new leads.
Keep the nozzle at a safe distance
One of the first mistakes novice heat gun users make when operating their shiny new toy is not knowing exactly how close they should hold the gun to the application surface. Most applications work best when the heat gun is held steadily and applied evenly from a 6-inch distance. For more intensive uses, it’s possible to move in closer, but, in general, wood, plaster and most common surfaces will melt, burn or catch fire if the nozzle is close to or touching.
Understand applications where heat gun may not be useful
As you well know, heat guns are versatile. However, there not made for everything.
“Never turn a heat gun on without knowing how to use it.”
Smaller guns can be used for common household, car interior and boat projects; larger guns are better suited to industrial applications like loosening large bolts, stripping multiple layers of paint and rust, applying large-scale vinyl wraps and bending PVC pipes.
Likewise, heat guns should not be used on surfaces that contain lead, as the fumes emanating from the heat application can lead to disease.
Keep skin, clothes and flammable materials away from the nozzle
As is the case with many hazardous tools, loose clothing or hair can easily be the source of a fire or electrocution. Never use a heat gun in the presence of flammable materials, and never touch the nozzle of the gun when in use.
Ensure proper ventilation if indoors
If working indoors, proper air quality and airflow is vital. The concentration of noxious fumes from stripped paint or corroded surfaces can prove harmful if no windows or ventilation is present. Additionally, harmful contaminants, particles and debris can affect the gun’s performance ability and your breathing.
Wear gloves, masks and goggles for max protection
When in doubt, wear protection. Heat guns aren’t your run-of-the-mill glue gun or hair dryer – these are professional-grade heat sources, and, in some cases, torches. That means you need effective personal protection equipment (PPE), which should include gear covering your eyes, nose, mouth, hands and portions of your arms as well.
If other areas of the skin are exposed, such as legs or parts of the neck, ensure you’re mindful of where you’re pointing the nozzle and that heated surface materials do not fall onto those regions of the body.
Create a game plan before you begin
Never turn a heat gun on without knowing how to use it, how long to use it and how to tell when your project is complete. Otherwise, your gun will continue drawing power, increasing temperature and impacting the environment around you, whether that’s the area where the nozzle is pointed or even just the climate of the room.
Know how to hold more than one tool simultaneously
Many operators use a heat gun in one hand while holding a scraper or similar tool in the other. This arrangement is common among professionals who strip paint or wrap vehicles, but only if the gun is designed to be lightweight and capable of being held in one hand.
Other models are heavier, and most users aren’t yet handy enough to operate a heat gun with just a single hand. This fact makes it equally important that users utilize a stand or holster when the heat gun is on but not in use at that exact moment – users can rest the gun in place and then pick up a different tool, alternative back and forth.
Following safety protocols is always recommended, and it helps when you have a heat gun that’s suited for your specific application. Master Appliance has all the heat gun varieties, accessories and kits you need to get started on projects of any size. Contact us today for more information to get started.