Well winter safety tips

Published: 
31 May 2018

Many winter products can be unsafe if they are old, faulty or used incorrectly. Stay safe with our 'well winter' safety tips that can help Australians avoid burns, injury and death, while staying warm in the cooler months.

Hot water bottles

Hot water bottles are widely used for warmth or to help ease pain. They are manufactured from rubber or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and can deteriorate with age. Each year, 200 people in Australia are treated for serious burns from using hot water bottles. 

Safety tips

  • 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 leave on one body part for more than 20 minutes.

Recalls

Video: Hot water bottles - The hidden dangers

Electric blankets

If you remove your electric blanket once the colder months are over always store it rolled up. Inspect it before use and look for frayed fabric, exposed elements, damaged cords or scorch marks before using it again.  If you notice any damage to your electric blanket, throw it away.  Damaged or faulty electric blankets can cause an electric shock or fire hazard. 

Safety tips

  • Check before use each year – cords should not be frayed and the blanket covering the wires should not be worn out.
  • 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.

Recalls

Wheat/Heat Packs

If you purchase a wheat pack follow the heating instructions 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.   Ageing causes the organic fillings inside wheat packs to dry out and become more combustible.

Safety tips

  • Do not heat and place the wheat pack on or in 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 the bag - it is no longer safe to use.

Recalls

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, on holiday or received as gifts from overseas.  These 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.

Recalls

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.

Recalls

Candles, matches and lighters

Candles are sweet-smelling and trendy but they are among the most common cause of fires in a home.  Extinguish a candle prior to leaving a room or before going to sleep. Ensure the wick ember is no longer glowing.

Children are naturally inquisitive.  Lighters and matches can be dangerous in the hands of children.

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 any combustible material including; curtains, bedding, clothing.

Recalls

Heaters

No matter what type of heater you have, check it every winter to make sure it is 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 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 particularly important to have gas heaters serviced regularly by a qualified tradesperson to ensure that 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.

Recalls

Fireplace

Regular maintenance of fireplaces, combustion heaters, flues and chimneys must be undertaken by a qualified person a minimum of 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.
  • If you have a fireplace in your home make sure the chimney is clean, and its properly ventilated.
  • Never use petrol, oil or kerosene to help light the fire. They could cause an explosion.

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Follow our safety messages and keep up-to-date on the latest product recalls at www.recalls.gov.au.

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