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Open Flame Candles in the Office

There have been more and more people bringing in candles for their workspace. There is no written policy within my company regarding the use of these candles. There have been complaints from some co-workers that the scent is overwhelming. There is also a fire hazard associated with this. I believe that the use of open flame candles in the workplace is illegal in my state of Pennsylvania. Is this the case? Can anyone direct me to where I can get information about this issue?

Submitted by: Angela Auddino

 

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Contact your local office for the city or township in Pennsylvania where you are located and ask for the Fire Marshall. They should be able to give you guidance. Most workplaces I am familiar with in Northern Virginia do not allow open flames, Wall air fresheners that plug in an outlet are more used. Catherine Brooks on 12/3/2007 7:22:28 AM
In my opinion, whether it's legal or illegel isn't important. I think it isn't good common sense to allow open flame in an office environment. We work with paper and anything can happen. With respect to the scent, it could easily become overwhelming to folks with allergies. If it's holiday ambiance that the workers want, I would suggest those battery candles that provide the flickering appearance. I would go to your HR Department and express your concern. Good luck! Anonymous on 12/1/2007 10:02:38 AM
Refer to your local fire department. They routinely conduct inspections of businesses to ensure that they are in compliance with local fire codes/ordinances. Nonetheless, I don't believe that candles are allowed in any office setting because of the fire hazard. The use of space heaters are usually prohibited as well for the fact that they can accidentally be left on overnight. Anonymous on 11/30/2007 12:34:13 PM
Actually, where you will find actual regulations concerning this in your state/city is in your OSHA guidelines and also with your insurance company. Very often your insurance carrier dictates what you can and cannot do with regard to fire safety in an insured building. Also, as I mentioned, I believe OSHA has regulations regarding open flame in the office workplace, you can probably look it up on line. Kelly Elmer on 11/30/2007 12:26:44 PM
Here is a copy of our University policy on open flames. "In the interest of safety of our campus community and facilities, candles, incense, and other items designed to burn are prohibited in all offices and classrooms. A standing exemption to this policy shall be any laboratory situation where flames or other heat sources must be used for academic purposes within established safety guidelines. Further individual exemptions may be requested through the Department of Public Safety for ceremonial, religious, or other purposes. Decorative candles are permitted when the wick is burned or cut off entirely." They do allow the use of electric candle warmers with candles in jars. Karen Elifrits on 11/30/2007 9:12:55 AM
Hi Angela - Our company does not allow open candles in the workplace. Definitely a fire hazard. We have a facilities manager who is also a volunteer fire fighter and he would never allow an open flame on a candle. I would suggest checking with your local fire company. Also, someone made a comment about using the candle warmers. I would not agree with that suggestion. You still have the problem of different aromas around the workplace that may offend some employees or even be allergic to some of these scents. Respect for other co-workers should be considered. Also, I had a disturbing event with a candle warmer I bought. The first time I used it and had it on, it shattered the large candle jar and the melted wax went down my desk at home and onto the carpet. Fortunately we were home to prevent a fire. I do not believe candle warmers are safe. Hope this helps. Rita Heika Anonymous on 11/30/2007 8:52:30 AM
http://www.osfc.state.pa.us/osfc/site/default.asp I would assume the Pennsylvania Fire Marshall's office would be able to give you an answer Donna Chizek on 11/30/2007 8:47:34 AM
You should definitely check with your local Fire Marshall to see what the laws are in that area. Have you checked with your Human Resources department to see if there are any company policies being violated by burning candles; one becuase it's an extremely dangerous fire hazard to all employees, and two becuase it's not healthy for others to have to breath that smoke in. Also, there are candle warmers that can be used with scented candles without actually lighting the candles. I am surprised your human resources department is allowing something that could be so potentially dangerous and costly to the company and its employees if a fire were to start. Linda Hampton on 11/30/2007 8:34:56 AM
Hi Angela, You would need to review the company's fire policy and regulations in regards to open flames. Your company may view burning table candles the same as they view having birthday candles on employee cakes. As far as a solution, I would recommend that they use warming plates for their candles. I use one on my desk and turn it on in the morning and off when I leave for the day. I place the candle jar on top of the warming unit and it freshens my office all day. I do not use strong scented candles as my office is not large, so a mild scent is perfect. And the candle jar lasts a very very long time. Sue Rogers Owner Rogers Executive Administrative Services www.easmyworkload.com Helping solo-professionals and entrepreneurs ease their workload Susan Rogers on 11/30/2007 8:29:47 AM
"What are OSHA’s regulations concerning the use of lighted candles in private practices? OSHA does not govern the use of candles, but the local fire marshal may. The use of lighted candles is forbidden in many public buildings. Yes, restaurants, spas and other establishments do use them. " As far as the legal route, I would contact your local fire marshal and/or property management company to see what the laws are for your building. I know with our building, we have to have plug in items inspected and approved prior to use and due to have a sprinkler system - we can't even use birthday candles. If your company has any policy regarding perfumes, candles would fall under this category as a fragrance. You can also google online and perhaps HR can use some of the information to prepare a memo to 'enlighten' your co-workers. Scented Candles in the Workplace The results of recent indoor air quality surveys have shown that there is a dramatic increase in the use of scented candles in the workplace. These have been seen in congested office environments, industrial assembly floors, and even elementary school classrooms. The burning of scented candles or oils has become a more common practice as retail stores and multi-level marketing programs have been developed as a way to sell these products. Often they are brought into a workspace to "improve" the odors found in the area. While they may improve overall odors by inserting cinnamon, vanilla, or citrus odors into the space, they really function by "masking" the initial odors and don't address the original problem. The process of burning candle wax and wicks to create an odor carries with it other more harmful consequences. Besides the potential for fires, the smoke and soot released by these candles are causing custodial nightmares and heightened indoor air quality problems. The size of the particles released through this burning of candles can even be harmful to people with upper respiratory or other types of breathing problems. Our guidance on scented candles is a simple one. Discourage their use in the workspace. They create a potential liability over which you have no control! Alysia on 11/30/2007 8:20:53 AM
I would suggest you contact your local Fire Marshals' office. They should be up to date on any laws for your area. Melissa Martin on 11/30/2007 8:19:49 AM
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