Spaceheaters - Hidden Fire Hazard

While space heaters are legal and widely used as an alternative heat source, many fire departments do not recommend their use because they pose certain hazards. If you have a space heater, or are considering getting one, consider the following safety tips as vital information for your personal safety as well as for protecting your property. 

  • Have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the area where you have a space heater. 

  • Never use fuel burning appliances without proper ventilation. Burning fuel (kerosene, coal, or propane, for example) produces deadly fumes. 

  • Be sure your space heater is in good working condition. All space heaters need frequent check-ups and cleaning. A dirty or neglected heater is a critical fire hazard. Also, space heaters should be UL (United Laboratories) approved and have knock-over shut-off switches. 

  • Use only the proper fuel for each heater. Never introduce a fuel into a heating unit that is not designed for that unit. 

  • Store kerosene, gasoline, or other flammable liquids outside the home or office at all times. 
    Use an approved safety can for storing all flammable liquids. 
    Maintain adequate clearance in all directions around space heaters. Give the heater adequate clearance – 3 feet is the minimum – from walls and combustibles, such as clothes, curtains, furniture, files, etc. Also, do not put them under the desk where you cannot see them and may forget to turn them off. 

  • Never leave children unsupervised in a room with a space heater. 

  • If you use an electric heater make sure the wiring is adequate. Avoid using extension cords.

  • Use an approved power strip with a built in circuit breaker. Do not overload the wall plug. 
    Never cover the heater’s cord with carpeting or furniture. This could cause the cord to overheat and start a fire. 

  • Avoid using electric space heaters in the bathroom. Never touch an electric heater when you are wet. 

  • When refueling a kerosene heater, avoid overfilling it. If cold kerosene is used, it will expand as it warms up inside your office and may cause burner flooding. This could cause flare ups. 

  • Never fill your kerosene heater while it is burning. 

  • Turn off your heater and unplug it before you leave the office at the end of the day. 
    When using a fuel burning heater, open a window to provide adequate ventilation. 

Over 700,00 fires are started worldwide each year by space heaters. Spending a little time thinking about the potential hazards of space heaters may save your building and lives.

Contact OMAG Risk Management Services if you have questions about this or other topics related to municipal workplace safety issues. Kip Prichard can be reached at (800) 234-9461 or kprichard@omag.org.


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