Canberrans warned about the dangers of using faulty heaters – including lethal gases

Glynis Quinlan 12 July 2019

ACT Fair Trading Commissioner David Snowden is warning Canberrans about the safety risks of faulty heaters.

As temperatures drop in the nation’s capital, Canberrans are being warned about the serious dangers or injuries which can be caused by using faulty heating appliances and products.

ACT Fair Trading Commissioner David Snowden is warning that these dangers can include burns from hot water bottles and safety risks from faulty heaters – including, in extreme cases, carbon monoxide poisoning from open-flued gas heaters that are faulty or poorly maintained.

His advice follows on from last month’s ACT Fire & Rescue warning that the number of ACT house fires caused by heaters and clothes dryers more than doubled in 2018 – making up 35 per cent of incidents in July.

“Products designed to keep you warm like heaters and electric blankets are coming out of storage or being purchased. These products pose a safety risk if used or stored incorrectly, and can also become unsafe when used together, or with other products,” Mr Snowden said.

“It’s important that Canberrans carefully check products for any faults or damages before using them. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions before first use and keep them for future reference.

“Keep your heater clean and avoid build-up of dust and debris within the heater enclosure. If your electrical heater repeatedly blows a fuse or has given you a shock, you should disconnect it immediately and have it repaired by a licensed electrician or replace it – never use damaged heaters.”

Mr Snowden said that anyone with an open-flued gas heater should have it checked immediately by a licensed gas fitter who can test for carbon monoxide spillage.

“If gas heaters are faulty, poorly maintained or don’t get enough air to operate, they won’t burn the gas properly,” Mr Snowden said.

“In extreme cases, they will emit toxic carbon monoxide and other lethal gases which can’t be seen and have no smell.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen in any home or building which uses gas heating, including newer homes, and can cause death or chronic illness.”

Mr Snowden said that hot water bottles are used widely for warmth and to help ease pain, but they can cause serious burns if left on the body for too long.

“Never lean or sit on a hot water bottle and always use a fitted cover or wrap the bottle with a towel,” he said.

Hot Water Bottle

Mr Snowden said that hot water bottles can cause serious burns if left on the body for too long and advised people to use a fitted cover or wrap the bottle with a towel. File photo.

ACT Fire & Rescue attends around 250 house fires each year, with heaters and clothes dryers being a major cause of these fires.

They have urged Canberrans to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions with these appliances and to stop using a heater or dryer if it’s making unusual noises or not functioning properly. They also say to never turn on a heater or clothes dryer and leave the house.

Access Canberra said that every year multiple children are admitted to hospital in Australia with burns sustained from their clothing catching fire and more than 50 people across Australia die each year from house fires. On top of this, about 200 people nationwide are treated for serious burns from hot water bottles.

Access Canberra has provided the following tips for staying safe this winter:

  • To help prevent a tragedy, ensure smoke alarms are working and check products such as heaters, electric blankets, hot water bottles and heat packs are in good condition before you use them.
  • Children’s clothing and nightwear with a ‘low fire danger’ label is still flammable, so always keep children away from open heat sources, like fireplaces and heaters.
  • If the goods have been recalled, it’s important to return them to the store for a refund or remedy.
  • When filling a hot water bottle ensure you use hot tap water and not boiling water. Replace it as soon as it starts to look cracked or worn.

For more information and tips visit

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