Space Heaters: Your best friend and possibly your worst enemy

December 18, 2019
By TAC Risk Control Consultant Isaac Garcia, ME
Risk Management News

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It is that time of year again. Blow the dust off your favorite space heater, plug it in and go about your day. Not so fast! Space heaters cause more than 65,000 fires each year and these account for 43% of home fires and 85% of fire-related deaths. December, January and February are the leading months for home and office fires. Though these heaters are convenient, it is important to remember the dangers associated with this convenience.

"Space heaters can be effective tools for providing added warmth, but it's critical that people follow basic precautions to ensure that they are used safely."
- Lorraine Carli, Vice President, National Fire Protection Administration

Here are a few tips to keep space heaters from becoming a danger in your home or workplace:

Choose UL & listed heaters – Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to public safety that sets standards for many products, including space heaters. Use a heater that is UL listed or look for space heaters with other certifications such as Electrical Testing Labs (ETL) and National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).

Look for standard safety features – A space heater can come with many features, such as a thermostat and remote control, but the most important features to look for when purchasing one are an auto-shutoff timer, tip-over protection and overheating protection.

Regularly inspect your heaters – Inspect heaters before their first use and at least once per month. Check the power cord for damage and to ensure a ground prong is not missing or damaged. Clean the heater of lint and dust.

Avoid combustibles – No combustibles should be located within three feet of a space heater. This includes furniture, walls, file folders, paper, or anything that could provide fuel for a fire.

Turn unattended heaters off – Do not leave space heaters on unattended. Make sure to turn off and unplug all heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep.

Don't overload electrical circuits – It is easy to overload an electrical circuit and cause an in-wall fire. Never plug more than one space heater or other heat-producing electrical appliance into one outlet circuit. Never use extension cords or power strips with space heaters or other heat-producing electrical appliances.

Prevent tripping hazards - Place space heaters out of high traffic areas where they may pose a tripping hazard.

Call a pro for permanent heaters – A professional should install stationary space heating equipment.

TAC Risk Control Consultants can assist members of the TAC Risk Management Pool with sample polices and Safety Surveys to help reduce the risk of fire at your facility. If you need assistance, please contact your TAC Risk Control Consultant.