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Queenslanders are warned not to give safety the cold shoulder

11 June 2019

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is urging Queensland residents to follow safety advice as they bring out their winter warmers.

It may be love at frost sight, but products designed to keep you warm can pose a significant safety risk if used or stored incorrectly.

Fair Trading Acting Executive Director Craig Turner said residents should always follow the warnings or tips set out for winter products.

“Electric blankets, hot water bottles, heat (or wheat) packs, children’s sleepwear and candles can pose a risk,” Mr Turner said.

“It’s important for all Queensland residents to check their heating devices before using them and be aware of the safety risks associated with winter products.

“Always read the product’s accompanying instructions before you use it for the first time, and keep those instructions for future reference.”

Conducting safety checks can be as easy as reading the label on a product and ensuring it doesn’t come into reach of certain materials, especially if flammable.

“It’s really important to carefully check winter items are in good condition and have not been recalled,” Mr Turner said.

“If any product has been recalled, consumers should stop using the item and return it to the store for a refund or remedy under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

“If you’re shopping for winter appliances remember new products are more likely to have the latest safety features, so if you’re buying second-hand make sure it has been safety tested.

“Queensland Fire and Rescue have reported that over the past five years heating devices have been responsible for almost 200 winter house fires, so being careful about what you’re purchasing and how you’re using them is really important.”

Winter safety tips

  • Hot water bottles - Use hot tap water and not boiling water to fill your hot water bottle. Replace it as soon as it starts to look cracked or worn. More than  200 people are treated for serious burns while using hot water bottles every year.
  • Wheat bags - Only buy wheat bags or other heat packs that come with clear heating instructions and allow to cool completely before reheating. If you notice a burning smell, allow it to cool completely then dispose of it.
  • Children’s clothing - Children’s clothing and nightwear with a ‘low fire danger’ label remain flammable, so always keep children away from open heat sources, like fireplaces and heaters. Every year there are multiple admissions to hospital for children suffering burns sustained from their clothing catching fire.
  • Electric blankets - Check electric blankets for signs of wear and tear before use and seek advice about using one from your health practitioner if you are pregnant or have diabetes.
  • Heaters and ethanol burners - Heaters need to be checked regularly, no matter how old they are. Make sure there are no exposed wires or loose connections on the cables. Only use one appliance per power point and switch each off when not in use. Ensure any ethanol-fuelled fireplaces and tabletop burners comply with the mandatory safety standard.
  • Candles - Extinguish candles when leaving the room or before going to sleep and ensure they are a safe distance away from combustible materials like curtains, bedding and clothing.
  • Smoke alarms - Each year, more than 50 people across Australia die from house fires with many homes not having working smoke alarms. Ensure smoke alarms are correctly installed, tested every month, and have their batteries replaced every year.

Consumers can check if a product has been recalled by visiting Product Safety Australia.

Want to know more? Find winter safety tips on the OFT website or visit Product Safety Australia