Office Safety

Good Housekeeping

It all starts with good housekeeping, and housekeeping is tied to a myriad of safety efforts, including fire prevention. Dust, shavings, clutter, and waste not only increase the combustible load of a space, but can hide many other safety hazards. Some hazards associated with housekeeping are:

  • Hidden electrical issues
  • Restricted access in and around space
  • High combustible loads
  • Fall from height hazards such as glass, heavy, or sharp objects
  • Blocked fire safety equipment
  • Restricted or obstructed exit corridors

Promoting quarterly or bi-annual clean-out events helps to eliminate outdated or unnecessary items from workspaces and keeps clutter from accumulating.

Electrical Safety

  • Extension cords: extension cords are for temporary use only (less than 90 days) and should be rated for the device used. Thin wire or 18-gauge cords are NOT recommended for use at Bates College.
  • Powerstrips: powerstrips should always be plugged directly into a wall outlet and never “daisy-chained” or connected together. Powerstrips are for low wattage appliances only, such as technology equipment. Powerstrips should be surge protected. Damaged powerstrips should be removed from service immediately and replaced. Only one powerstrip per wall outlet it allowed.
  • Ground Reducing Plugs: ground reducing plugs (cheater plugs) are NOT recommended for use at Bates College.
  • Trip / Entanglement Hazards: electrical cords should NOT be placed across aisles or pathways
  • Electrical Cords: cords should never be run under carpet, through windows or doors, or placed in a manner that produces strain on any part of the cord. Damaged cords should not be used and replaced immediately.
  • Electrical Panels: electrical panels must have 36 inches of clearance in front and 30 inches of clearance on either side of the panel at all times.

Fire Safety Equipment

  • Fire Extinguishers: know where they are and how to use them. Fire extinguishers should have 36 inches of clearance at all times. Extinguishers and extinguisher sign should be readily visible at all times.
  • Sprinkler System: sprinkler heads require 18″ of clearance in and around heads; furthermore, items should not be stored higher than the 18 inches of clearance. If no sprinkler system in present, then items must be stored no less than 24 inches from the ceiling.
  • Fire Alarm System: know where the pull-station’s are and how to activate them. Know the sound characteristics of the fire alarm system in your building.

Improper Storage

  • Bookcases: should have heavy items stacked low and light items stored high to maintain a low center of gravity; if bookcases have any movement from slight force, a work order should be placed to anchor the bookcase to the wall
  • Sprinklers: items should not be place higher than 18 inches below the height of the sprinkler head; sprinkler pipes should not be used to hang any items;
  • Fire Extinguishers: extinguishers should not be used to hang clothes, wires, or any items.
  • Stairwells: stairwells are not to be used any any type of storage for any purpose.
  • Electrical Equipment: electrical panels, transformers, and switches should not have any items blocking or obstructing workspace around the devices


  • Electrical Plugs: all appliance cords should be plugged directly into the wall. Appliances should never be plugged into a powerstrip or extension cord that is not rated for the appliance. The ground should never be removed from the appliance cord.
  • Keurigs: Keurig coffee machines contain two sharp needles. Care should be taken not to place fingers into the assembly housing. The water chamber should be emptied when not in use to prevent bacteria and mold build-up.
  • Portable Space Heaters: if occupant space is cold, contact Facility Services to check the thermostat. If a space heater must be used, the following recommendations should be strictly followed:
    • Space heaters with ceramic heating elements should be used.
    • Space heater should be UL rated and have tip-over safety features.
    • Space heater should be plugged directly into a wall outlet.
    • Space heater should be stored a minimum of 3 feet away from any combustible material.
    • Space heater should be turned off and unplugged when not in use. Never leave an operating space heater on and unattended.
  • Refrigerators: only small dorm style refrigerators should be used in an office space. They should be plugged directly into a wall outlet.
  • Open Heating Elements: Any appliance or device typically used at home or in an office environment that has an open heating element and does not have an automatic shutoff feature are is not recommended. Examples include hot plates, toasters, toaster ovens, and certain portable space heaters.