Home > Property & Casualty > Risks of allowing space heaters in the office

Risks of allowing space heaters in the office

As the winter months and the bitter cold continues with no end in sight; many companies are inquiring about whether it is “okay” to have employees use portable/space heaters in the office. It depends on a few different factors. Space heaters can prove to be a hazardous to your employees and the company’s property. These units can increase the chance of a fire within the office and have the potential to burn employees.

Before agreeing to allow space heaters in the office, it is critical to check with your local fire department to ensure that having the space heater in a commercial environment is not breaching any municipal or state fire codes. If in fact the fire department has cleared the use of the space heater, every company should talk with their Building Manager to make sure the having a space heater in the office does not violate the terms of the lease.

From a pure risk management perspective, employers should consider the following when allowing employees to use space heaters in the office:

  • Select a space heater that has been tested by independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL)
  • The preferred style of a space heater should be fully enclosed by design, and have no external surfaces that can reach temperatures capable of ignition
  • Keep the space heater accessible – do not store anything within three feet of the unit
  • The unit must have a thermostatic control and an automatic shutoff feature
  • The space heater must be plugged directly into an outlet. Do not use extension cords or surge protectors, as it can start a fire with other high wattage appliances
  • Run the power cord so that no one steps on or trips over it.
  • Turn off the heater when leaving the room, and unplug the heater when leaving for the day

You should also know that having space heaters in the office does raise your risk exposure to Workers Compensation, General Liability, and Property losses. If you do allow these appliances, it is important to set guidelines of usage. For additional information, visit Energy Savers & Space Heater Safety Fact Sheet.

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William Gallagher Associates is a leading provider of insurance brokerage, risk management and employee benefits services to firms with complex risks and dynamic needs, within industries that include technology, life sciences, financial risks, health care, renewable energy & clean technology, and environmental services. WGA has offices in Boston, MA; New York, NY; Hartford, CT; Princeton, NJ; Columbia, MD; and Atlanta, GA.

  1. September 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Heaters can be very dangerous so we all need to be very careful in choosing one. Great article peter laid out nice, simple and very informative.

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