electrical hazard question

Ok - office building, one floor, lots of cubicles. New construction. Place easily has some 100 computers installed, 4 or 5 tvs, electrical outlets ever 3. 5 inches (ok, so maybe that’s an exaggeration), several copiers, several faxes etc. Frig, coffee system, microwave, can opener, pop machine in employee break room, 2 dishwashers etc.

Again, in each cube, there’s a minimum of one computer. Many also have scanners and printers attached.

The situation is a bit odd since we’re not ‘employees’ as such, but contractors, all of whom are paying rent, some of whom recieve funding.

We got a memo recently saying the following are not allowed:

Coffee makers (I understand that)
Space heaters (no problem w/that)
electrical fans.


apparently it’s thought that leaving a fan plugged in but not turned on is a legitimate fire hazard. From my standpoint, since there’s no heating element, you may as well outlaw eletric clocks, lamps, and take out the computers etc.

Is this concern a legitimate one? Should I worry about leaving my fan plugged in?

(My thought was 'thank heavens this person isn’t a micro manager).

I don’t get it either.

Maybe the guy sending it out simply feels like it’s unnecessary and dosn’t want pay any extra electricity. Maybe he doesn’t understand the whole “heater element” idea.

Maybe it screws up the air conditioning or heating system.

Personally, I can’t remember seeing any fans in my cube farm.

I never thought of a fan as a fire hazard, and I don’t see how it can start a fire. But perhaps they are worried that a fan would exacerbate a fire if one were to start?

Geez. :rolleyes: I’ve been using all those appliances for more years than I care to remember, and I’ve NEVER heard that any of them are fire hazards just sitting there, plugged in.

I mean, come on, think about it, wouldn’t a Mr. Coffee and a space heater be the same as a fan? There’s electricity flowing into all three of them when they’re just sitting there plugged in but turned off, but they don’t use it until you turn them on.

Your memo guy is a dweeb, Wring–a graduate of the “electricity leaks out through the outlets if you don’t keep them filled with plugs” Old School.


The Mr. Coffee one I’ve heard, tho’ and, of course, if some ijiot leaves it on all weekend and the pot dries out etc, yea, I can see that one.

RE: electrical use-
A. he has also mandated that the bank of 40 computers for ‘customer use’ remain on all the time since it ‘takes too much staff time’ to turn them on each day.

B. we all pay for electricity as well. (rent + utlities, phone, share of the coffee supplies, a portion of the postal meter - that I don’t use, insurance, plus internet access fee. If I were to make copies there or use any but my own printer at my work station, I’d be charged at $0.10 per or something )

according to Snookie, the only hazard he could see is if some one left one on, and it somehow fell (onto something flamable), causing it to not be able to turn, which would build up heat.

Maybe I’ll have to talk my Doctor into writing an ‘excuse’ : PLease allow wring to have an electric fan in her cube since your f***** building’s temperature isn’t well regualted and she’s pre-menapausal… :smiley:

Fans can be electromagnetically noisy. (The one behind my Sparc station causes my video image to vibrate.) This is perfectly livable for me, but annoying for others. Maybe that’s why.

He specified the fire hazard. he also said ‘no’ to some one bringin in their own shredder.

I was tying to give him the benefit of the doubt for intelligence.
Perhaps you should ask him to get rid of those damn fire hazards in the ventilation system. After all, the wire supplying a 5 hp fan… (getting to close to a flame. Sorry.)
I found a news release from Underwriter’s Laboratory that may have something to do with it. Note, however, that we are seeing here a report about non-UL approved fans (it does mention that there are counterfeit stickers and how to identify the fans. Maybe someone in his chain heard about this and decided, “I’m not taking any chances! No fans! the sky is falling!..”
Maybe he should be informed about UL and thier purpose, and what the little “UL approved” stickers are for. Show him the press release, and a fan that DOES have a legitimate UL sticker, and see what he says.

By the way, I found this , too… Goes to show anything can be a fire hazard…

Couple of points here,

Under UK law, The Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) which closely follows European Parliament requirements there is a hazard.

I assume that in the litigious US of A there is similar legislation, and likely as not it will be tougher than ours.

All employers have a duty of care to their employees and must demonstrate this by maintaining records of all safety related issues.

All equipment must be assessed for risks to health and safety and all tasks carried out by employees in the business of their employer must also be assessed.

More specifically, in the case of electrical equipment, this must be inspected and tested regularly for continuing suitability for safe operation.

In the real world this means that everything in the building has to be tested before being allowed on site, so if an employee brings, ooooh lets say an electric fan to work, this must not be used until it has been tested and approved using very specific methodology, by staff who have been certified as being competant for this task.

Not only must every appliance be tested, but records have to be kept to prove that this has been done in accordance with a regular inspection and maintenance program, which will vary according to the duty of the appliance.

Even if you are not a direct employee, the owner of the site must ensure that the environment provided is safe.

Now to get much more specific, the fan itself.

The vast majority of these lightweight fans have rotors that run in plain brass bushes and these are lubricated at manufacture with bearing grease, which stays there for the life of the fan.
Problem is that when you run such a fan, or any fan for that matter, it will get warm and soften the grease, turn the fan off and the grease cools down.
Repeat this cycle day in day out and the grease age hardens, causing more drag on the fan rotor, which in turn gets warmer and in turn causes the grease to deteriorate more.

So what! you say,

Well the drag on the rotor eventually causes it to get so hot that a thermal fuse melts (a special type of fuse that melts at a specific temperature rather than the better known current operated fuse) and open-circuits the motor, thus the fan will not run.

All seems well, but it is not unknown for that thermal fuse not to work at all, and the fan is then able to reach a temperature which is dangerous, and may set light to the plastic casing. If this happens when you are on your lunch break or have left the building then this could be serious.

The other thing that happens is that some people with a little electrical knowledge will work out why a fan has failed and bypass the thermal fuse and without this protective device, the risk of fire is greatly increased.

I would think that this employer will not allow staff to bring in any electrical equipment unless it has been checked out first, but in any case, fans are a particular hazard and do cause fires.

ok, casdave - but you know what? he ain’t my employer. Or the employer of any of us.

Think of a mall where you have different shops/companies renting space.


You mentioned in your OP that the fan, when turned off, should not be a hazard.

If a fan were not rotating you would assume it was turned off, and you wouldn’t check to see if that really was the case.

Problem comes with that ageing bearing grease, the fan might still be turned on, but stalled and is slowly getting hotter.

As for not being an employee, well I thought I’d mentioned that you do not have to be an empoyee, just a person operating in the building concerned.
The owner of the building will probably have insurance, and one condition of that might well be to adhere to electrical safety rules.

If each cubicle of whatever, was rented permanently by a particular person and operated by them then liability and responsability would probably fall to them, but for very short term lets, like a few hours or so, such as in an internet cafe, it would almost certainly fall upon those who provide the facilities.

thanks casdave for the info re: a fan. So he might not be totally off base on it.

It’s a very peculiar relationship legally. We pay rent (not like the cafe), that’s ‘my’ cube (tho I can be moved if/when they wish), we also pay for utilities, internet access, will soon be required to chip in for general receptionist costs, postal meter rental fees, insurance, phone, supplies for the break room etc.

You know, I have to say that a little risk in life is unavoidable. I wish that government, insurance firms, and the public which drives them would get around to accepting that. [ Insert heated rant here…]
Any electrical device can be a hazard, as can your cigarette lighter (even when not lit), your nail polish, perfume, peanuts in your candy bar, deodorant, shoelaces, et cetera ad infinitum.
I guess the bottom line here is that someone, somewhere, must have gotten sued. THAT’S why you can’t have a fan. Not actual DANGER, but liability or perception of it. It’s easier/cheaper for him to forbid you a fan than to assume liability for it being in his building.

Hmmmm. Maybe the warning is tailored to people who can’t tell the difference between an electric fan, versus an electric heater which has a fan inside.

At garage sales I’ve seen large fan-like devices which have nichrome heating elements strung across the air path.

I can just imagine earlier arguments with employees: “It’s not a heater, it’s a FAN!” “No, it has a heating element, therefore it’s a heater.”

It makes a vague sort of sense to nip such things in the bud by banning all fans entirely.

A similar topic: banning metal in microwave ovens. Metal is perfectly safe if you know what you’re doing. Since most people aren’t trained in the arcana of microwave oven physics, it’s easier just to tell them that metal objects in the oven are inherently hazardous.