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Using Space Heaters in the Workplace

Toby Graham /
  • Categories: EHS

Article Contributor: Lori Matthews

As winter temperatures continue to drop, the use of space heaters brought into the dealership from home is on the rise.  Have you ever noticed how many of your service advisers have a space heater under their workstations?  Or how many receptionists and office employees have a space heater under their desks?  Odds are they are more prevalent than you realize.

According to the NFPA, in 2011, space heaters were involved in an estimated 53,600 reported U.S. home fires, with associated losses of 400 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries, and $893 million in direct property damage.*

There are no OSHA regulations specific to space heaters; the use of them at the dealership should be avoided whenever possible. If they are going to be used, implement the following guidelines to ensure a safe work environment:

  • Never use space heaters in the Parts or Service Departments where flammable materials are stored and used.
  • Ensure the space heater has been approved for use by a recognized safety testing laboratory.
  • The heater must have an automatic safety switch that turns off the unit if it is tipped over.
  • Before using the heater, inspect the electrical cord. Look for frayed wire or cracked insulation. If there are any defects in the cord or unit it should not be used.
  • The heater should be plugged directly into the wall; outlet and extension cords should not be used.
  • Never leave the unit on while unattended.
  • Do not place the heater near combustible materials. Allow at least three feet between the heater and combustible material. Space heaters need space.
  • Do not place the heater in or near wet areas or in high traffic areas, such as exit ways.

It is also recommended that you register your space heater with the manufacturer so any recall or safety notices can be communicated in a timely manner.

Do you have further questions about how to safely use space heaters at your facility? Contact your Risk Management Consultant, or email info@kpaonline.com.

*Source: NFPA’s “Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment” report by John R. Hall, Jr., October 2013.

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