Environmental Health and Safety
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fire Safety

Space Heaters - Fire Safety Tips

Portable Electric Space Heaters
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that space heaters, including both fixed and portable varieties are associated with about 21,800 residential fires every year in the United States.

Approximately 300 people die each year in fires started by these heaters. According to the National Fire Protection Association, supplemental heating equipment, such as electrical and kerosene heaters, is the leading cause of home fires in the United States during the months of December, January, and February.

Hudson Valley employees wishing to provide supplemental heating in their work area should follow these guidelines:

Finding the right space heater

  • Select an electric space heater with a guard around the heating element.
  • Choose a heater that has been certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Select a heater that is the correct size for the area you want to heat. The wrong size heater may not be an efficient use of energy. Physical Plant will help you in making this determination.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer's operating instructions, and ensure everyone who may use it knows how to operate the heater safely.
  • Make sure the heater has an automatic “tip-switch,” a cutoff device (now required by fire codes) that turns off electric heaters if they tip over.

Preventing a fire

  • Place the heater on a level, hard, stable surface – (do not place on tables, countertops or other furniture.)
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet from furniture, files or other combustible items.
  • Do not use space heaters in areas where water is present.
  • Do not place items (books, papers, files,etc.) on top of the space heater.
  • The space heater should be plugged directly into an outlet. Avoid using an extension cord, unless it is specifically approved by the college’s Environmental Health and Safety Office or a Physical Plant electrician.
  • Do not plug the heater into your computer surge protector strip – Information Technology Services provides these strips specifically for computer equipment – other appliances plugged into these strips can negate the warranty on the computer equipment!
  • Turn off the space heater when you leave the area, and never leave a space heater on when going home.
  • Do not use heaters with cords that are cracked or frayed.

Hudson Valley Inspection Program

All space heaters must be inspected and approved by the Physical Plant and Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). Contact Physical Plant at (518) 629-7356 for approval to use a space heater in your area. The Department of EHS also will inspect space heaters for proper use.

For more safety information about using space heaters in your home, go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site (www.cpsc.gov) and type in “space heaters” in the search window.

Update: 2/12/08