Space heater safety

This ceramic heater, suitable for use at work, is available in the Fermilab Stockroom. Photo: J.B. Dawson, ESH&Q

As the days turn cooler, many people find their workspace chillier as well. The use of space heaters is permitted at the laboratory, provided employees follow these conditions:

  • Ensure that space heaters have the required UL, ETL or NRTL label and have a switch that turns it off if it is tipped over.
  • Choose ceramic heaters, rather than radiant heaters, for use at work. The glowing elements of radiant heaters pose a greater fire hazard, so these heaters should be retired.
  • Inspect heaters before use. Do not use ones that are damaged, discolored or have frayed cords or plugs.
  • Clean dust and lint from space heaters. Look through ceramic heaters to see if lint is clogging the heating element. Clean the air filters on heaters that have them.
  • Place the heater on a stable, level surface where it won’t be knocked over.
  • Keep combustible materials such as paper, furniture or clothing away from the heater. There must be no combustible materials within 3 feet around or above the heater.
  • Plug space heaters into permanent building outlets, not into power strips or extension cords.
  • Do not power a space heater from a loose or damaged outlet. Ask for bad outlets to be repaired.
  • Never run the cord under rugs or carpets.
  • If the cord, plug or receptacle gets hot when the heater is running, stop using the heater until the problem is fixed.
  • Turn off space heaters when you leave your work area. This reduces the fire hazard and saves energy, too.

We recommend that you use the ceramic-element space heaters from the Fermilab Stockroom, item #2800-100000. You don’t need to bring your own heater to work.

Dave Mertz