Ethanol burners (Decorative alcohol fuelled burners)

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Decorative alcohol fuelled burners 

From 15 July 2017 a mandatory standard applies to decorative alcohol fuelled devices (ethanol burners and fireplaces).

The safety standard:

  • prevents the supply of table top devices (devices which weigh less than 8 kilograms or have a footprint less than 900 square centimetres); and
  • requires freestanding and fixed devices to meet a stability test, come with a fuel container with a flame arrester (or an automatic fuel pump system) and display warnings on the device about refuelling hazards.

Products intended for cooking or heating are exempt from the safety standard.

The safety standard gives device suppliers the option of instead complying with the specifications in the former national interim ban until 14 October 2017.

The action follows more than 100 reported injuries and 115 fire incidents since 2010. In October 2016, a 28 year old Perth woman suffered serious burns to her face and upper body after an ethanol burner exploded in the backyard of a Safety Bay home. This was closely followed by two people being injured on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in an ethanol burner accident.

These burners are especially dangerous when they are being re-fuelled. When the fuel is low, the flame can appear blue or clear, making it difficult to see. Re-fuelling when a flame is present or the device is still warm can lead to an explosion.  There is also a risk of the burner being knocked over by children or pets and causing serious burns to people nearby as well as damage to property.

The mandatory standard applies to devices designed for domestic use producing a flame using alcohol as fuel. The burners are primarily decorative but are also sold for heating and display purposes.  The fuel is typically ethanol in liquid or (less commonly) gel form.  The most common form is methylated spirits (ethanol and around 10 per cent methanol) which may also be marketed as bio-ethanol or eco-fuel. 

Caution is still strongly recommended in the use of ethanol fireplaces that require installation in a fixed position.

Retailers and online traders based in WA face tough penalties for selling products which do not comply with a safety standard. Individuals can face a maximum fine of $220,000 and corporations facing a maximum fine of $1.1 million.

Consumers who have a table top burner in their home should stop using it immediately and return the product for a full refund. The store may require proof of purchase such as a receipt or a credit card/bank statement.

 

Dr Fiona Wood explaining the dangers for ethanol burners. 

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