Snowden / Cold facts about keeping warm

WITH Canberra shivering through one of its coldest winters on record, many of us have been pulling the spare heaters or extra electric blankets from storage.

David Snowden.

While seeking warmth, it’s also important to stay safe. Over the winter months hospitals see a range of injuries, be it burns from heaters or hot water bottles or electric shock from damaged electric blankets and heaters.

Here are some practical winter product safety tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this winter:

Hot water bottles

  • Replace them each winter and check them for any damage such as cracking of the rubber before use.
  • Don’t overfill or fill them directly with boiling water from a kettle.
  • Wrap them in a towel or use a cover and don’t leave on the same part of the body for more than 20 minutes.
  • Don’t sit, lean on or sleep with a water bottle. This may cause it to burst.
  • Don’t use hot water bottles with babies, children and people such as the elderly who may have reduced feeling in skin or limbs.
  • Consider using wheat bags and ensure they are heated according to instructions.

Heater safety

  • Check the leads of any electric portable heaters for damage or fraying before use.
  • Make sure heaters are installed by qualified tradespeople and maintained regularly.
  • Choose portable heaters with automatic safety switches that turn the units off if they are tipped over.
  • Keep portable heaters away from wet areas to reduce risk of electric shock.
  • Don’t cover heaters or leave unattended.
  • Supervise children and pets around heaters.
  • Ensure curtains, tablecloths, clothing and bedding remain away from heaters.
  • Use a fire screen for open fires and clean flues and chimneys at least annually.

Electric blanket safety

  • Check them for damage and wear each season.
  • Don’t leave them on when sleeping or during the day.
  • Carefully monitor their use around children.
  • Do not pile clothes or heavy objects on a bed when an electric blanket is on.

General safety

  • Regularly check smoke alarms.
  • Don’t leave cooking unattended.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to exit your home in case of fire.
  • Clean lint filters each time before using a dryer.
  • Ensure power points and power boards are not overloaded and switch appliances off when not in use.
  • Do not leave lit candles unattended and keep them away from curtains and flammable items.

Also remember to check that any of the products you may be using are not subject to a recall. You can check at

David Snowden is the ACT commissioner for Fair Trading.


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