SPOT on Safety: Space Heaters

Did you know the first official day of winter was December 21, 2021? Did you also know that the first day of Spring isn’t until March 20, 2022? That means we have a solid three months of potentially frigid temperatures ahead of us and a job that just won’t quit.

Thankfully your boss is generous enough to spring for a space heater that he’ll allow you to plug in while taking breaks in some make-shift trailer when you’re on site. But little does he know that those efficient and inexpensive solutions can sometimes cause tremendous damage.

According to Energy.gov, “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters, resulting in more than 300 deaths. In addition, an estimated 6,000 people receive hospital emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting the hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations.”

“Safety should always be a top consideration when using space heaters,” say the Electrical Safety Foundation.  Here are some tips for keeping your space safe and warm when it’s cold outside:

  • Make sure your space heater has the label showing that it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Before using any space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully.
  • Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you’re leaving a room, and don’t let pets or children play too close to a space heater.
  • Space heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes.
  • Proper placement of space heaters is critical. Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.
  • Locate space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways where they may pose a tripping hazard.
  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater.
  • Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
  • Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use.

These tips seem simple enough, but don’t downplay the seriousness of space heater safety. When you’re cold or tired or distracted by the job at hand, don’t forget that the safety of your workplace should be paramount.

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