Q: As the cold weather starts to creep up on us I’m continuously asked by staff if they can have a personnel heater in their office space (not patient care areas). What kind of heaters are permitted and where?
A: Portable space heaters whose heating element does not exceed 212°F (100°C) are permitted in non-patient care or non-patient treatment areas in healthcare occupancies. These portable heaters would have to be inspected upon purchase and be accounted for in the organization’s equipment utility equipment inventory.
Patient care areas area loosely defined as a smoke compartment which contains patient care or treatment activities. This is in accordance with the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code, section 19.7.8. You should conduct a risk assessment for the use of portable space heaters even if they are compliant and not used in patient care areas. The presence of a portable heater implies the HVAC system is not performing adequately to meet the requirements of the building. That is a “red flag” for a surveyor who can investigate and determine what corrective action that you have taken, other than placing a portable heater there. Also, the facility’s electrical distribution system may not be able to handle additional heating appliances. Portable heating appliances should only be used as a short-term solution, rather than a final fix.