- Winter has definitely set in, with significant rain and snow falls being reported or forecast across many of our provinces.
- One of the first things we tend to do when the cold sets in, is to turn on our heaters to keep our homes warm.
To ensure a warm environment we make use of a variety of heating devices powered typically by gas, electricity, or a combustible product. All these devices come with several associated risks which should be carefully considered.
Miranda Moahlodi, Eskom’s Senior Manager for Corporate Hygiene and Safety says, “Eskom comes across many electricity-related incidents related to heating in winter and as such, we would like to equip you with some tips on how to safely heat your homes this winter.”
- Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If the cords are frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater. Get an electrician to check for faulty wiring that can cause electric shocks or fires (especially when a device has not been used for some time).
- Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater.
- Electric heaters should be kept out of wet or moist places like bathrooms, as water could lead to a fire or shock hazard.
- Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire, and do not use them to dry wet clothing.
- Never use an electric stove or oven as a heating source as this poses a fire hazard. The use of electric stoves or ovens for heating purposes will also push up your electricity bill tremendously.
Additional general safety tips related to heating
- If you are going to use a portable (gas or electric) space heater, make sure you never leave it unattended and remember to turn it off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Always remind everyone in the house to unplug appliances immediately when the electricity goes off.
- Always keep the space heater at least a meter away from anything that can catch fire such as curtains, paper, blankets or furniture, and place it away from busy areas of your home like doorways.
- In the case of open flame space heaters, make sure that there’s no dust or dirt in the heater before using it.
- Teach children about the safety of electrical or gas heaters and teach them not to operate any on their own. Ensure that children and pets are supervised around any sources of heat.
- Have a professional inspect your gas heater at least once a year. A gas heater or furnace with leaks or cracks could release carbon monoxide into your home or cause a fire. Never use a gas stove or oven to heat a room.
- If you use a fireplace, have a professional inspect and clean it every year. Keep flammable materials away from the open flame area. Do not burn trash, cardboard boxes or items that may contain chemicals that can poison the air in your home.
“We urge communities to really take care when heating their homes this winter. Always switch off electric heaters when loadshedding starts – the power may return late at night when everyone is sleeping, and the heater may overheat during the night. Unfortunately, we have seen very serious incidents due to people forgetting to switch off ovens, stoves, heaters and kettles when loadshedding starts.
In one instance a gas bottle was placed on the stove when the power switched off, and the family then continued to finish cooking the meal on the gas stove. However, the stove plates were never switched off, which is unsafe and dangerous, because when the electricity was switched back on, it heated up the gas bottle, which then exploded.
There have also been cases where people put plastic containers on the stove top, forgot to remove them, and these then melted and started a fire when the electricity was turned back on, and the stove plates heated up.
Kettles that do not switch off automatically when boiling are also a problem if left on during loadshedding. When the power returns, they will switch on again, boil dry and possibly cause a fire.
Therefore, please do switch off all appliances when loadshedding starts!
“Never forget the safety of your family and your neighbours – fires can rage out of control very quickly,” Ms Moahlodi concludes.
Author: Bryan Groenendaal