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Keeping your children and family safe this winter – Heater Safety


It’s getting cold, and families around the country are starting to pull out the heaters. (If you’re anything like me your heater came out a few weeks ago when your feet turned to ice on the early morning floor.)

Heaters certainly have a place in heating our homes and keeping our families warm in the cooler months, however with household heaters comes the potential for accidental burns and house fires. Every year a number of children are hospitalised due to burns sustained from household heaters.

Many house fires and burn injuries are caused by the unsafe use of heaters. Heating safety involves the correct installation and maintenance of the heating device, supervision of children, safe clearance between heaters and flammable materials, and adherence to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Let's look at the different types of household heating;

Electric and Gas Heaters

Too often electric and gas heaters are put too close to flammable materials like curtains and clothing or are knocked over onto carpet and rugs. This is a common cause of household fires.

Safe practices for heaters:

  • Choose an electric model heater that has an automatic safety switch that turns the heater off if tipped over.
  • Do not use an electric heater with a damaged cord or plug.
  • Do not use an electric heater on table tops unless specified by the manufacturer.
  • Do not place a heater on furniture.
  • Unless the electric heater is designed for use outdoors or in bathrooms, do not use in damp, wet areas.
  • Have your gas heater installed by a trained qualified licensed gas plumber.
  • Heaters are not recommended in children's bedrooms overnight. Instead, try heating the room prior to the child going to bed, turning the heater off once they go to sleep. Add extra blankets and bedding to maintain warmth during the night.


A fireplace is a beautiful and warm addition to the interior or exterior of a home. However it is important that your fireplace is kept safe to ensure that members of your family are not seriously hurt.

Safe practices for fireplaces:

  • Flues and chimneys should be cleaned regularly to prevent a build up of flammable material and ensure the fireplace functions correctly.
  • Clean your fireplace out after each use.
  • Install a screen/guard to prevent children accessing hot surfaces.
  • Use a screen to prevent embers from jumping out of the fire and potentially burning your carpet or rugs, or starting a fire.
  • For gas fireplaces, regularly check the connections to ensure that there are no gas leaks that can potentially cause a problem.
  • For electric fireplaces, ensure that there are no issues with the electrical connections.
  • Do not hang decorations or combustible items on the fireplace.

Using Guards

Make sure that the heater or fireplace is not easily accessible by children when it is in use. You can protect young children by using a barrier, such as a fireplace screen or guard, ensuring that they cannot get close to the heat source and burn themselves. Guards should be about 700mm high and placed at least 1 metre clear of hot surfaces to prevent children from putting hands or objects towards the hot surface. Ensure that the guard can be secured to the walls or floor to prevent a child from pushing it onto the heat source. Also make sure that any fireplace tools are not easily accessible. (Children can mistake fireplace tools for toys)

Educating Children

Educating children on the importance of fire safety is an important way parents and carers can prevent burn injuries.

Safety rules should include:

  • Matches are not toys. Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
  • The fireplace, is not a play area.
  • Inside the fireplace is off limits.
  • Children should be taught not to climb inside or remove any screens or doors in order to get to the fireplace.
  • If a fire is lit, children should be taught not to approach closer than 1metre.
  • Supervise children at all times.

By implementing these simple rules and being aware of the dangers of heaters and indoor fires, you should be able to keep your family warm whilst minimising any dangers.