Commissioner's Blog: Winter warmth – product safety tips
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With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Winter's here and as we try to keep warm in the cooler weather there are some annual safety messages to think about when buying or using products such as hot water bottles, heaters, electric blankets, wheat bags and pyjamas.
Let’s start with hot water bottles. You might have one in the back of the cupboard but if it’s more than two years old don’t use it this winter – buy a new one instead. Old hot water bottles can have cracks in the rubber and they might leak, which can be dangerous if there’s hot water inside. Whether a hot water bottle is new or old you should NEVER fill it with boiling water. Some Australians have suffered terrible scalds from hot water bottles bursting. The best thing to do is wrap hot water bottles in a towel or fabric cover when using them.
Heaters and electric blankets are prone to faults and can be the subject of product safety recalls. You should have a look at the national recalls website www.recalls.gov.au to check your heater or electric blanket is not listed on there. If it is, you should not use it and instead return it to the seller for a refund. The risks with electric blankets and heaters include electric shocks and fires. If you’ve had the product in storage, check it’s still in good condition. With heaters, remember to keep them away from flammable items including furniture and don’t put clothes on them.
Wheat bags or heat packs should have instructions on the packaging or label and you need to read them. Overheating wheat bags, by putting them in the microwave longer than recommended, can cause the product to ignite and start a fire. This might happen a while after the wheat bag has been taken out the microwave. Earlier this year there was a house fire in South Australia caused by an exploding wheat bag and in New South Wales in 2011 a pensioner died after a wheat bag she was using to warm her bed set on fire. You should NOT use wheat bags to heat your bed.
Winter pyjamas can be cosy but the material they’re made of is often highly flammable. Bear this in mind if you’re trying to keep warm near a fireplace or using a gas cooktop. Children’s nightwear has to have warning labels and it’s important for parents or carers to take note. But remember, just because children’s pyjamas have a label saying ‘low fire danger’ does not mean they are not able to catch fire, so keep children in pyjamas away from open heat sources.
For more information on how to avoid burns, injury and death this winter check out the website www.productsafety.gov.au/wintersafe. There’s a powerful video about hot water bottle safety in particular.
If you spot a product you think is unsafe you can report it Consumer Protection’s product safety officers by emailing email@example.com or calling 1300 30 40 54.
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