We want you to have a safe, happy and healthy winter. Many winter products can be unsafe if they are old, faulty or used incorrectly. Follow our safety messages and keep up-to-date on the latest product recalls at www.recalls.gov.au.
To have a ‘Well Winter’ and avoid injury we have made a list of our top tips:
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.
- 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
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.
- 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
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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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 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.
- 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
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.
- 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
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.
- 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
A well-insulated and well-designed home provides year-round comfort, cutting cooling and heating bills by up to half. 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. Find out more from the Insulation Council of Australia and New Zealand (ICANZ) at www.icanz.org.au
- Always use a qualified installer for insulation in the home
- 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
People including pregnant women, children and people with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases should not be present when mould is removed. Mould is not a major health hazard for most people; there are some important safety tips to follow when trying to remove mould and reduce the chance of mould regrowth.
- Open windows and doors each day to ventilate your house and reduce the growth of mould
- Don't let it settle in, clean up mould as soon as you notice it
- Scrub mould off hard surfaces using soapy water. The physical action of scrubbing is the most important component as all the mould must be physically removed to prevent regrowth
- Make sure you 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
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