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The safety of electrical heaters

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Over recent weeks, workplaces around the country have turned up the heating as temperatures have dropped. In many businesses this has been supplemented by the use of portable electrical heaters.

While these heaters are useful to increase temperatures in colder parts of the premises, there is also no fuel burned internally, no naked flame, no risk of fumes, carbon monoxide, or the dangers of storing and changing gas bottles that comes with using gas portable heaters.

There are possible safety issues that employers - and employees - must take into account.

This starts with the purchase itself. When looking to buy a safe electrical heater, look for a BEAB approved European Safety Mark. This is the highest safety standard achievable in the UK market. The mark should be displayed on the heater, on its packaging and in its literature.

  • Never buy a second hand heater.

  • Always put your heater on a level surface and away from any potential obstruction.

  • Never power a heater from an extension lead as these can be easily overloaded causing fires.

  • Never cover, drape or leave clothing, plastics or paper on an electric heater.

  • Never put an electric heater under a desk.

  • Never use it to dry your clothes!

  • Keep your heater a safe distance, at least a metre, from clothes, curtains and furniture.

  • Always turn off your heater when not in the room, and in particular at the end of the working day. They can cause fire. Always allow it to cool before moving it.

  • Your heater should be regularly inspected for damage and deterioration. Do not use it if uncertain or if there is apparent damage.

  • Always use the portable heater for the application it was intended.

At the end of winter, store the heater in a safe place. Do not store other items on top of the heater. A few years ago this happened at a place I was working. Come the autumn, an employee got the heater out of the cupboard, and plugged it in. She shot across the room, and the power to the building shorted. Items had been thrown in the cupboard on top of the heater, damaging its internal electrical workings. Thoroughly inspect and PAT test each year before first use.

Electrical heaters can be used safely, if the above is followed. Remember they can cause fire and electrical shock if used incorrectly.


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