Go to top of page
31 May 2021
Colourful socks on feet in front of fireplace

When the cool winter weather hits, there's nothing better than getting warm and cosy with products like heaters, electric blankets, hot water bottles or heat packs. Whether your products have been stored during summer or recently purchased, it's important to identify the safety risks involved when using any heated product. To help you stay safe while keeping warm this winter, here are our top tips.

Wheat/heat packs

Always follow the heating instructions of purchased wheat packs. Heating homemade wheat bags can be dangerous as the moisture content and volume of these bags is unknown, increasing the risk of fire or serious burns. Over time the organic fillings inside wheat packs will dry out and become more combustible. 

  • Do not heat and place the wheat pack on or in bedding. Blankets trap the product's heat and may cause it to ignite.
  • Never use wheat/heat packs for babies.
  • Allow the wheat pack to cool completely each time before reheating.
  • If you notice a burning smell, let the bag cool and then dispose of the bag - it is no longer safe to use.

Check heat pack recalls.

Hot water bottles

The rubber or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used to make hot water bottles can break or deteriorate over time. Check for wear and tear and never fill with boiling water! Hot water bottles may help ease pain, but each year hundreds of Australians are treated for serious burns due to hot water bottle use.

  • Don't overfill or use boiling water in your hot water bottle - use hot tap water.
  • Once filled, avoid direct contact with your skin - use a fitted cover or wrap the bottle before use.
  • Never use a hot water bottle for a baby.
  • Never leave on one body part for more than 20 minutes.    

Check hot water bottle recalls.

Watch the video: Hot water bottles - The hidden dangers

Electric blankets

It's important to store your electric blanket properly - make sure it's rolled up and not folded. Give it a safety inspection before use and look for any frayed fabric, exposed elements, damaged cords or scorch marks. If you notice any damage, throw the blanket away. A faulty electric blanket can cause a fire or electric shock.

  • Read and always follow the manufacturer's instructions
  • Don’t sleep with your electric blanket on - warm the bed and then turn it off.
  • Never place heavy items on your bed when the electric blanket is turned on.
  • Never place a baby on or under an electric blanket.
  • Seek advice about using an electric blanket if you have diabetes or are pregnant.

Check electric blanket recalls.

Heaters

When pulling your heater out of storage each year, but sure to give it a once over safety check and make sure there are no expired wires or loose power cord connections.

Gas heaters should have adequate ventilation as the carbon monoxide produced when gas is burnt is odourless, colourless and deadly. Gas heaters should be serviced regularly by a qualified technician to guarantee there are no carbon monoxide leaks.

  • Heaters should be placed on a flat, level surface.
  • Never use a gas heater or BBQ made for outdoor use inside your home.
  • Always supervise children and pets when heaters are in use.
  • Keep heaters well clear from items that might burn. A minimum of one-metre clearance from clothes, bedding, furniture, curtains and other combustibles is recommended.

Check heater recalls.

Fireplaces

At the start of every winter it's important to have your fireplaces, combustion heaters, flues and chimneys put through a maintenance check by a qualified tradperson to ensure they are working properly and safely.

  • Place a mesh screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks and wood falling out.
  • Make sure the chimney is clean and properly ventilated.
  • Never use petrol, oil or kerosene to help light the fire. They could cause an explosion.

Smoke alarms

Tragically, more than 50 people die in house fires each year, with many more injured. The majority of these homes don't have working smoke alarms. A smoke alarm is the best way to receive early warning of a fire and give you and your family the time needed to escape.

You lose your sense of smell while sleeping, so the loud beeping of your smoke alarm may be your family's only notification before it's too late. 

  • Test your smoke alarm is working every month.
  • Replace the batteries every year.
  • Replace your smoke alarm every 10 years. If you move to a new house, check the alarm - the date of manufacture should be displayed on the smoke alarm.

Check smoke alarm recalls.

Candles, matches and lighters

Scented candles are quite popular, but candles remain one of the most common causes of house fires.

  • Make sure your candle holder is sturdy, is not combustible, cannot tip and is only placed on heat-resistant furniture.
  • Blow out all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep and ensure the wick ember is no longer glowing.
  • Never leave children unattended around candles, matches and lighters.
  • Store matches and lighters in a safe place, out of reach of children.
  • Keep lit candles away from any combustible material - e.g. curtains, bedding, clothing. 

Check candle recalls.

Children’s clothing

Children’s nightwear must display a fire hazard label, but even nightwear that is considered a low fire hazard is still flammable. Remember to always keep children away from open heat sources, like fireplaces and heaters, to prevent nightwear catching fire.

  • Be cautious of children's clothing purchased online, on holiday or received as gifts from overseas. These may not be subject to Australian mandatory safety standards.
  • Keep your child away from open flames and heaters.
  • Avoid buying loose fitting sleepwear, dressing gowns and clothing which could easily catch alight.

Check children's sleepwear recalls.

Insulation

A properly insulated home provides year-round comfort but the material needs to be correctly installed, and foil products should be kept away from electrical power outlets or lights. Be careful not to move the insulation when doing home repairs. 

Decorative alcohol fuelled devices

These devices are designed for domestic use and produce flame using alcohol as fuel. If used incorrectly, these devices can cause serious burn injuries and house fires.

  • Make sure your decorative alcohol fuelled device complies with the mandatory safety standard.
  • Always place on a level surface, out of reach of children.
  • Make sure no flammable items, including aerosols, are close to the device.
  • Do not leave devices on overnight, or unsupervised.
  • Never refill while alight, smouldering or hot. Always allow the device to cool before refuelling.
  • When refuelling, only use containers that have a flame arrester.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions, including appropriate use of the device.

Check recalls of decorative alcohol fuelled devices.

Watch the video: Don't Fuel the Fire - Ethanol Fireplace & Burner Hazards

Mould

Poor ventilation and moisture in the air inside homes during winter can lead to mould growth that can cause nasty health problems.

  • Don't let it settle in - clean up mould as soon as you notice it.
  • Scrub mould off hard surfaces using soapy water.
  • Dry the area and then find and fix the source of the moisture.
  • Ventilate your house by opening windows and doors each day to avoid mould growth. 

Button batteries

Button batteries are found in common household items and can cause serious injuries or death if swallowed. If friends or family with young children visit your home this winter, make sure TV remotes, key fobs, garage remotes, kitchen scales, torches, toys and other items that use button batteries have secure battery compartments that can't be opened by children, such as being secured with a screw.

If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, immediately call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

Check button battery recalls.

Watch the video: Button Batteries: Tiny batteries, big danger

More safety information

Keep up to date with product safety information and the latest product recalls by subscribing to Product Safety Australia's email updates and recalls RSS feeds.