All room heaters must conform to safety standards : The Tribune India

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All room heaters must conform to safety standards

All room heaters must conform to safety standards

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo

Pushpa Girimaji

In the absence of central heating in residential buildings, portable room heaters are a necessity in the northern parts of the country during the cold winter months. However, poor quality heaters and poor observance of safety precautions during their usage have been leading to devastating fires.

In Delhi’s Pitampura, for example, a raging fire in a four-storey residential building last fortnight took away six precious lives. According to preliminary investigations, the residents on the first floor, where the fire started, had gone out leaving the room heater on in the living room. By the time they returned, the house was on fire. As per initial reports, it was possibly a short circuit in the heater. Or, a flammable material close to the heater, or some clothes kept near the heater to dry had caught fire.

In December, another residential fire in Khairtal-Tijara district of Rajasthan caused by a room heater left three persons — a young couple and their infant daughter — dead. As they slept, their quilt, probably close to the heater, caught fire, leading to the tragedy. Similarly, in January last year, a woman and her two young daughters were charred to death from a fire caused by short circuit in the electric room heater in their house in Hamirpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

We do not have statistical data on how many residential fires are caused by room heaters in the country and unless adequate preventive measures are taken, such fires are only going to increase.

Factors like disposable income and easy availability of a large variety of electric room heaters online, are expected to drive the growth of their market considerably in the next few years.

Most fires from these electric room heaters start on account of short circuit caused by either a manufacturing defect, use of an underrated socket or an extension cord, or wear and tear and poor repairs. The other common cause is proximity to combustible substances.

To prevent electric shocks, electrocution, thermal burns and fires from these room heaters, the government has, for long, imposed quality controls on these appliances. Earlier, radiators were under a quality control order, issued in 1993 under the Essential Commodities Act. Subsequently, these were brought under mandatory safety certification under the Electrical Wires, Cables, Appliances and Protective Devices and Accessories (Quality Control) Order, 2003, issued under the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Act.

As per this order, all electric room radiators, including convector heaters, fan heaters, panel heaters, radiant heaters, tubular heaters and liquid-filled radiators, must conform to the IS safety standard (IS 302-2-30) and carry the ISI mark.

However, even today, manufacturers exploit the lack of consumer awareness about the quality control order and sell room heaters not certified by the BIS. Besides stricter enforcement of the order, adequate consumer education is required to ensure that only ISI-marked room heaters are sold and bought in the country.

But that solves only one part of the problem. The other is the lack of consumer awareness about the safe use of this essential household electrical appliance, and this needs to be urgently attended to. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, imposes responsibility on the manufacturer to issue adequate warning labels on the safe usage of the product and manufacturers need to comply with this.

The BIS also needs to review their standards to not only upgrade the safety features, but also expand the labelling guidelines provided in the standard.

Meanwhile, here are some tips for safe usage: always plug the heater directly into a 16-amp wall socket. Make sure that the plug (16 amp) fits snugly into the socket, or else, there could be overheating, sparking and fire.

It is best to avoid using an extension cord. However, if you really need one because the cord of the heater is too short to place the heater in a secure place, buy a 16-amp ISI-marked extension board, and fit the plug of the extension board into a 16-amp wall socket. Do not plug any other appliance into the extension board and overload it. Place the room heater on a flat, even floor and not on a wooden stool or table and certainly not on a carpet.

It should be at least 3 feet away from all flammable substances and the wall.

Never leave the heater unattended. Always switch it off when you leave the room. Never keep it on when you sleep.

Before the start of winter, check your room heater for any signs of wear and tear. If necessary, get it serviced from a qualified service centre — if the wire or the plug is to be replaced, these must be of 16 amp and ISI-marked.

Never use heaters in the bathroom where these are exposed to water or moisture. Do not cover the heaters when switched on since this would lead to overheating. 

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