Someone turning on a heater

Half the Office Chilly? What to Know Before Using a Space Heater

If you’ve worked in an office environment before, you probably know how difficult it can be to set the temperature so that everyone in the office is happy and comfortable in fact it is nearly impossible to do it seems as we all have a different view of what is considered cold and warm. You probably have at least one person in your office who makes comments throughout the hottest summer days that the AC is making them feel frozen, and then there will be others who have the windows open in February because they can’t stand the overpowering heat! Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, you simply cannot please everyone at the same time. So, what do you do this winter to cope with this potentially ongoing issue? Many companies will turn to those small square units that can be plugged in right under a desk; we are talking about space heaters. While convenient in many ways, they can also be risky and pose safety concerns for your business. As a facility manager and business owner, you should be aware of the potential problems that are associated with these little devices before you go purchasing them for your office. Read more below:

Too Many Cords!

Make sure your employees aren’t using extension cords to power up their space heaters if you’re considering using multiple units.  Why? Using extension cords improperly continues to contribute to a high level of electrical fires throughout our province, which is alarming news. The Electrical Safety Authority advises consumers to use extension cords appropriately; this means using them for temporary use only. In fact, flexible extension cords should never replace permanent wiring as they are simply not built or intended for permanent use. When extension cords are used beyond what they are intended for, there is an automatic risk of a fire or it may become a shock hazard as well.  Not only that, overusing extension cords can also lead to tripping hazards as they typically get in the way.  Before you use these heaters, we highly recommend that you have an electrician come to your office to check that whatever method is being used meets the necessary electrical standards for safety and efficiency.

Employer Should Provide Heaters

Don’t allow employees to bring in their own heaters; this can lead to all sorts of issues. If it is determined that portable heaters are necessary for one or more staff, as an office manager you should be supplying these.  Handling this among management means that you’ll know exactly what units are being used and can ensure they continue to be properly maintained and cared for.  Don’t use heaters in your office unless they meet current CSA/ULC standards. Anything outside of this means there’s potential for a dangerous outcome.

Business Insurance Issues

An All Risks property insurance policy does not dismiss fire damage caused by these portable heaters, but they can still lead to headaches and stress for building owners. If you own and/or manage a commercial building you may be aware of the loss control inspection process.  Basically, this takes place when an insurer sends a loss control expert to your property so that it can be evaluated and reviewed on behalf of the business.  Excessive use of portable heaters may raise some red flags with your insurance company which also may mean higher premiums. For clarification and peace of mind, simply talk to your insurance broker about the use of space heaters before you decide to install them in your work space.

The Underlying Cause

An effective central heating system is meant to distribute heating and cooling as and where needed in a room. If someone begins using a heater too close to the thermostat, your AC may switch on in the dead of winter; yes, this can throw your entire system out of whack.  Aside from causing your staff to be uncomfortable it will also contribute to increased costs for cooling and heating your business. To avoid such an occurrence, consider hiring a heating and air -conditioning contractor to come and review the system on a yearly routine to ensure all is functioning as it should be.

Turn it Off!

As in a lot of cases, it can be the simplest things that lead to the most problematic consequences when overlooked.  For safety purposes, it is best to task at least one employee to check that all portable space heaters are switched off following each work day. Insurance aside, nobody wants to deal with the burden of an office fire because a space heater was left plugged in all night.

As winter commences and weather gets chillier, be sure you are taking the right steps to protect your family and employees this winter season. Need advice in relation to commercial insurance? We’ve got you covered at Will Marshall Insurance. Reach out to us for more information on business insurance options.

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