Private Electrical Appliances in the Workplace

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A summary of best practice advice recommended by Facilities Managers

The following edited comments have been gathered from forums in which Facilities Managers have discussed the use of personal portable electrical appliances in the workplace. The policies described range from an outright ban on such items to the imposition of clearly defined permitted usage. Does your business have a personal electrical appliance policy in place?

“Our policy is that electrical appliances or any other device with a heating element, (fan heaters, coffee makers, toasters, microwaves, refrigerators, electric skillets, curling irons, etc.) are not be permitted within any of the office areas. Personal heaters are permitted only if authorized by a medical doctor, and such heaters must be equipped with an automatic shut-off device if tipped over. The doctor’s authorization should be kept on file with HR, and Department Managers must be notified of the grant of permission.  Facilities Services must approve all heaters. No decorative lights (electrical or battery operated) are allowed within the office environment.”

“I believe the mood and consensus is that you cannot prevent people from bringing in appliances, therefore control of either the numbers involved or else clearly defining areas in which they may be used is probably the best way forward. We often create workstations where all essential and critical power sources are below desks in cable trays, etc., and accessed through ‘top of desk’ power modules for the desk users’ own usage. This can be from a single power point up to 4 power sockets, with the most common arrangement being two sockets to cover MP3 and phone charging. Lower rated fuses can be used to ensure no heavy equipment is plugged in (although one client had their power modules randomly blowing fuses until we discovered that the cleaners were plugging in vacuum cleaners during the evening cleaning).”

“Why does this issue need to be tackled? On health and safety grounds, environmental grounds, and as part of a corporate security policy, no electronic or electrical portable devices without a specific business case to justify their use should be used in the workplace. The clue is in the word workplace.”

“If a business wants to run the risk of setting fire to its property, creating an avoidable trip hazard or having data removed through iPods or camera phones, then they must live with the outcome, which could be lost business, lost revenue and law suits!”

“We had staff charging their personal mobile phones, and leaving them charging overnight. That was nipped in the bud for electrical safety reasons and because the cost of charging personal phones was significant over time.”

Portable Electrical Appliance Testing