Winter safety tips

Many winter products can be unsafe if they are old, faulty or used incorrectly. To help you stay safe while keeping warm this winter, here are our top tips.

Heaters

No matter what type of heater you have, check it every winter to make sure it’s safe to use. Check the electrical cables and make sure there are no exposed wires or loose connections. Only use one appliance per power point and switch each appliance off when not in use.

Gas heaters must be vented adequately as the carbon monoxide produced when the gas is burnt is odourless, colourless and deadly. It is important to have gas heaters serviced regularly by a qualified tradesperson to ensure there are no carbon monoxide leaks.

Safety tips

  • 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 1 metre clearance from clothes, bedding, furniture, curtains and other combustibles is recommended.

Fireplaces

Regular maintenance of fireplaces, combustion heaters, flues and chimneys must be undertaken by a qualified person at least once a year (at the start of winter) to ensure that the heater or fireplace works properly and safely.

Safety tips

  • 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.

Insulation

A well-insulated and well-designed home can halve the cost of cooling and heating. Selecting the right insulation and having it correctly installed is a once only cost. It will last the life of the building with no further maintenance cost.

Unfortunately over 11,000 house fires and 60 fatalities have been linked to non-compliant insulation in Australia and New Zealand.

Safety tips

  • Always use a qualified installer for insulation
  • If you are doing home repairs do not move insulation and ensure it is not over or around recessed light fittings
  • Keep foil products away from electrical power outlets or lights, as they can conduct electricity through the metal reflective covering.

Hot water bottles

Hot water bottles are made of rubber or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and can deteriorate with age. Each year, 200 people in Australia are treated for serious burns from hot water bottles.

Safety tips

  • Don’t overfill or use boiling water – use hot tap water instead
  • Avoid direct contact with your skin – use a fitted cover or wrap the bottle before use
  • Never leave on one body part for more than 20 minutes.

Electric blankets

If your electric blanket has been stored away, inspect it before use. Look for frayed fabric, exposed elements, damaged cords or scorch marks. If you notice any damage, throw the blanket away. Damaged or faulty electric blankets can cause an electric shock or a fire.

Safety tips

  • 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
  • Seek advice about using an electric blanket if you have diabetes or are pregnant
  •  If you remove your electric blanket after winter, always store it rolled up.

Wheat/heat packs

Follow the heating instructions for your wheat bag and never heat more than instructed. Homemade wheat bags can pose a fire and injury risk because the moisture content and volume of these bags is not known so there are no heating times to guide you. Over time the organic fillings inside wheat packs can dry out and become more combustible.

Safety Tips

Don’t place a heated wheat pack on or under bedding. Blankets trap the product’s heat and may cause it to ignite.

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 it.

Children’s clothing

Each year Australian children are admitted to hospital with burns sustained after their clothing has caught fire. Even if clothing items have a ‘low fire danger’ label they are still flammable.

Safety tips

  • Be cautious of children’s clothing purchased online or from overseas. They may not be subject to Australian standards
  • Keep your child away from open flames and heaters
  • Avoid buying loose fitting sleepwear, dressing gowns and clothing which could easily catch alight.

Smoke alarms

More than 50 people across Australia die each year from house fires and many more are injured. The majority of these homes did not have working smoke alarms. Only working smoke alarms can provide early warning and time to escape. You lose your sense of smell when you are asleep. A working smoke alarm reduces your chance of dying in a house fire by half.

Safety tips

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

Candles, matches and lighters

Candles can look and smell nice, but they are one of the most common causes of house fires. Extinguish a candle prior to leaving a room or before going to sleep. Ensure the wick ember is no longer glowing.

Safety Tips

  • Store matches and lighters in a safe place, out of reach of children
  • Never leave children alone with any open flame
  • Keep lit candles away from combustible material – e.g. curtains, bedding, clothing.

Mould

While mould is not a major health hazard for most people, it can present problems for pregnant women, children and people with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases. Vulnerable people should not be present when mould is removed.

Safety Tips

  • Open windows and doors each day to ventilate your home and reduce mould growth
  • Don’t let it settle in, clean up mould as soon as you notice it
  • Scrub mould off hard surfaces using soapy water. All the mould must be physically removed to prevent regrowth
  • Scrub up to 50cm from the edge of the visible mould as there may be new growth that is not visible to the naked eye.
  • Clean up any mould residue caused by the scrubbing. Use a damp cloth or vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter
  • Dry the area and then find and fix the source of the moisture.

For more information about product safety – including safety warning notices, recalls, bans and new safety standards – please visit www.productsafety.gov.au