School district employees often want to bring electrical appliances—such as coffee pots, space heaters, fans or scent diffusers—to make their personal workspaces more comfortable. This can be a liability, as each of these appliances could cause safety hazards or result in an electrical fire.
It is recommended to establish a policy prohibiting personal electrical appliances in individual workstations or work areas outside of designated employee break rooms. Electrical appliances within employee break rooms should meet the following guidelines:
- Make sure the appliances comply with Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or other nationally recognized testing laboratory safety standards for the intended use, and do not pose potential disruptions to the workplace.
- Plug appliances into a permanent electrical outlet, rather than a power strip.
- Power down and unplug appliances at the end of each workday and during extended building closures.
- Only permit personal appliances designed and manufactured for commercial use to be used in the workplace.
- Remove personal appliances immediately if there are any signs of damage/malfunction.
- Position them to reduce power cord strain or damage.
- Establish a regular schedule for cleaning and maintaining the appliances.
Space heater safety
CM Regent Insurance Company does not recommend or endorse the use of personal space heaters. Not only are they a fire hazard, but a space heater placed near a building’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system thermostat could counteract the building’s system, causing certain areas to become overly hot or cold. If a large number of space heaters are used, the building’s HVAC system may become unbalanced.
If an employee is injured as a result of a personal appliance in the workplace, the employer may be liable for a workers’ compensation claim; regardless of who purchased the appliance. If, however, you have a very clear policy in place that prohibits or restricts the use of such appliances, you will reduce liability from personal injury or property damage exposure.