Electric Space Heater Safety

November 2014

Cold weather is here. You might feel the need to use a portable electric space heater in your work area. We should try to avoid the use of space heaters due to power consumption and fire safety concerns. However, if you must use a space heater, consider the following safety requirements.

1.     Minimum Safety Features:

a.    Use only GROUNDED type (cord with three-prong plug) or double insulated, and listed and marked by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL).

b.    The maximum electrical rating should be 500 watts.

c.     Heaters must AUTOMATICALLY SHUT OFF when: It is tipped forward or backward as a minimum. (The switch should be tested annually by tilting the space heater while it is turned on. If the switch functions properly, the unit will shut off automatically.), or it is rated for Zero-Clearance [from combustible material] by an NRTL.

d.    Keep heaters clean, NOT covered with dust.

e.    Maintain cords in good condition (e.g., intact insulation, grounding pin in place, not frayed).

2.     Usage

a.    Always read and follow manufacturers' operating instructions before operating the heater.

b.    Always TURN OFF the heater or UNPLUG it when you leave the office for an extended period (i.e., meeting, lunch, and at the end of the day).

c.     Do not try to use a portable space heater to heat the entire suite or floor. Portable electric heaters are designed for use as supplemental heat for a single room or small area. They should provide temporary heat only.

d.    Contact the Building Manager to have the building heating system inspected and adjusted if the heating requirement is permanent, or if multiple persons within the office suite or space are using electric portable space heaters to supplement the heat in the same area.

e.    Contact the Building Manager in the event a space heater causes the circuit breaker to trip. This indicates that the circuit is being overloaded.

3.     Placement

a.    Do not plug a heater into extension cords or plug strips. It should be plugged into a permanent wall outlet. If a new wall outlet is needed, contact the Building Manager to have a wall outlet installed.

b.    Place the heater on a level and sturdy surface.

c.     Do not use where flammable or explosive vapors, dusts, or toxic materials may be present.

d.    Do not place heater near combustible materials such as papers, magazines, drapes, or office furniture. Follow manufacturer guidelines for placement of the heater. If no manufacturer guidelines are present, provide at least 36 inches clearance in front of the heater and 18 inches from the sides and back.

e.    Do not use heaters in or near wet areas such as locker/shower rooms.

f.      Do not place a heater in an exit way where the cord can become a tripping hazard.

g.     Never run a power cord under the carpet or floor mat.


Contact the EETD Safety Manager, Ron Scholtz (X8137) if you have any questions or concerns.