Each year about this time, the NIH Fire Marshal receives questions on the use of space heaters in the workplace. The following information indicates where space heaters are allowed and under what circumstances. Much of this is equally appropriate for your home.
First, an informative video on this topic produced by Good Morning America with the cooperation of the Montgomery County Maryland Fire Department (anyone unable to view this video may contact the NIH Fire Marshal for a verbal explanation).
Prohibited locations! For the safety of patients and the protection of research activities, space heaters are not allowed in laboratories, patient care units and clinics.
In other areas, several steps must be taken before a space heater can be considered. First, the Office of Research Facilities (ORF) must attempt to address temperature regulation and maintenance. If this does not correct the issue, your ORF facility manager must approve the space heater use in writing, ensure that the space heater electric load can be accommodated, and advise you on acceptability of the location away from thermostats for the benefit of other occupants. If electric work is required, your ICO should initiate a work request.
Once you have taken the proper steps for ORF approval, follow the requirements of the Division of the Fire Marshal's (DFM) Administrative Interpretation 17-7. This interpretation will guide you on the features needed for the space heater you purchase and the safe use of the space heater. The DFM cannot endorse or recommend any particular model or brand of space heater.
Additional guidance is available through the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The requirements and information above apply to NIH-owned facilities Questions may be directed to the Division of the Fire Marshal at 301-496-0487. Use the hazard reporting tool for situations on the Bethesda campus. You may remain anonymous when reporting a hazard, but it always helps to have a contact to obtain information as needed. For guidance in leased facilities, contact the local fire marshal or fire department.